Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp: Help Us Stop The DARK Act

Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp: Help Us Stop The DARK Act

Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young, who serve as board members of Farm Aid, have spoken out against the controversial Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599), also known as the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or DARK Act. “Giant food, chemical and biotech corporations have spent millions of dollars to block our right to know what’s in our food.”

Farm Aid concerts raise money to support small farmers and farming families.

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10 Things to Love About Cows

10 Things to Love About Cows

If you have never given much thought to how wonderful cows are, now is a great time to start. Cows are gentle animals who are affectionate, emotional and intelligent. Mahatma Gandhi described a cow as “a poem of compassion.” Cows are certainly deserving of our compassion as well as our understanding and respect. Before I became vegan, i didn’t know much about cows. I had only seen one once; after all, i was a city girl.  

When I visited a farmed animal sanctuary, I was amazed at how beautiful, serene and at peace these once abused but now fortunate animals were. Getting up close and personal with a cow and touching her was an emotional experience for me. …If you don’t know much about our bovine friends, here are 10 things about cows that may astound you:

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Steve Ells - Chipotle Founder and Co-CEO

Steve Ells - Chipotle Founder and Co-CEO

Steve Ells opened his first Chipotle in 1993. It was a success from the start, growing into a nationwide restaurant chain that today has 1,900 locations, 45,000 employees and generates annual revenue of well over $4 billion. It was innovative, creating what has become known as ‘fast casual’ dining, and with its commitment to organic food ingredients. Steve’s Chipotle website states, “We care deeply about where our ingredients come from. While industrial farming practices have evolved to maximize profits and production, we make an extra effort to partner with farmers, ranchers, and other suppliers whose practices emphasize quality and responsibility.”

Regarding the animals Chipotle sources for its food, “We think that animals raised outdoors or in deeply-bedded pens are happier and healthier than those raised in confinement. With our suppliers, we take a firm stand on two things.”  First, that pasture-raised animals must be provided the living space to be animals. Second, that farmers and ranchers must raise their animals without using antibiotics or synthetic hormones.

Moreover, regarding the produce Chipotle purchases, its mandate is to source locally grown wherever possible and to buy from farms “that plant a variety of crops and rotate the fields where they’re planted keep(ing) the soil nutrient-rich and the land healthier year after year.”

This mandate enables hundreds of family owned sustainable small farms to survive and to thrive, and pumps millions of dollars back into rural economies. Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement believes that this movement, the return of small farms, of a modern day Grange, of food-to-table, will create 500,000+ new farming jobs over the next decade, the rebirth of rural towns, and will constitute one of the essential American social movements in our country’s evolution into a more compassionate nation.

What we most want to commend Steve Ells and Chipotle on, is their strength of character, their adherence to their values. Given the factory-farmed dominance of the pork industry, when pork suppliers violated Chipotle’s animal care standards, it proved impossible to source humanely raised pork. Rather than compromise, Chipotle removed pork from its menus – and for a prolonged period of time.

Steve Ells risked that his customers who would head down the street to order their carnitas at Taco Bell or numerous other food chains where it was always on the menu – chains operating without concern at their executive level regarding the humane treatment of the animals they source for food. But Chipotle customers tend to be loyal. And aware, informed and issue-oriented. And they remained Chipotle customers.

Now some factory farms are getting the message. It is no coincidence that DuBreton, North America’s largest pork producer has agreed to raise 300,000 more crate-free pigs. Nor, most probably, is it a sudden surge of compassion on their part either. They are changing to supply customers’ demand for healthier, humanely raised pork - demand rising hand-in-hand with a company like Chipotle who gets it, whose mandate, whose DNA insists on it.

This is not just a reflection of the compassion and the caring of Steve Ells. This is also a demonstration of his courage.

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Environmental Groups Are Suing New York Over Water Pollution Caused by Dairy Farms – Here’s Why

Environmental Groups Are Suing New York Over Water Pollution Caused by Dairy Farms – Here’s Why

In recent years, public awareness about the shocking cruelty of the animal agriculture industry - particularly factory farms - has greatly increased. At the same time, more and more people are beginning to learn about how harmful the industry’s practices are to the environment. Far higher amounts of freshwater and land resources are required for the production of meat and dairy than for the production of plant-based foods. To take just one example, the production of beef requires approximately 160% more land resources than the production of plant-based protein products. Additionally, a person who stops eating meat and dairy products for one year can save 200,000 gallons of freshwater!

The world’s farmed animals produce around 130 times more waste than the entire human population. Approximately 150 gallons of water are required per cow, per day, to hydrate the animals, remove excrement from the floors of factory farms, and clean slaughter equipment. Once this water has been used, it contains too much animal waste, antibiotics, growth hormones and bacteria to be returned to the water treatment system. Instead, it must be stored in open-air lagoons that can be the size of several football fields. These lagoons often leak into the surrounding groundwater – and some farmers even drain them by spraying the polluted water onto neighboring lands – which can cause massive problems for drinking water supplies in the area.

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Duh! 6 Surprising Facts On The Intelligence Of Farmed Animals

Duh! 6 Surprising Facts On The Intelligence Of Farmed Animals

Anyone who has lived with a dog or a cat can attest to how intelligent and quick these animals are.  We always stop to marvel at how our cats know when we’re upset and need a snuggle or how our dogs can learn tricks and perform incredible feats. But what if we told you that dogs and cats aren’t the only intelligent animals out there?

Rather, you might be surprised to know that some of the most interesting, clever and intuitive characters live tucked away in cages, barns, and out of sight. I know first-hand just how smart farm animals are. During lunch breaks at work, I have played fetch with a turkey, taught pigs how to “sit” and “roll over,” and even had a rudimentary game of football with a group of hens.  There is so much about these charming creatures that people don’t know, or don’t really bother to find out, so it’s time we celebrate them for the individuals that they are and the talents they possess. Here are six of the most amazing facts about farm animal intelligence and behavior.

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Ground-Breaking Animal Welfare Organic Rules Moving Forward

Ground-Breaking Animal Welfare Organic Rules Moving Forward

STEPHEN COMMENT:   California State Assembly Bill 27, which places tough restrictions on the use of all antibiotics on farm animals, was signed into law on October 10th by Governor Jerry Brown. This is a monumental victory for animal welfare and for us.

 “The law is a game-changer,” says Avinash Kar, a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It instantly puts California at the forefront of U.S. efforts to end livestock misuse of antibiotics.” And as Maryn McKenna also notes in this excellent article, “According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, California is the country’s biggest dairy producer and third-leading state (behind Iowa and Texas) for beef cattle. It produces 5% of US milk, beef cattle, and chicken eggs, and because of the new law, the lives of all the animals responsible for those products will change. … And maybe more important, California has always been a place that sets trends for the rest of the country to follow.”

The massive overuse of antibiotics on factory farmed livestock, administered routinely in their food and water to maximize weight gain and for disease prevention and control, is a practice that is completely unnecessary when humanely rearing sustainably farmed, pastured livestock – as nearly any small family farmer or rancher will tell you.

It may be considered a necessity on factory farms because the living conditions, due to vast overcrowding, are so vile, so toxic and so debilitating that, without constant dosing of antibiotics, large percentages of factory-farmed livestock very probably would succumb to disease and die.

In addition to protecting the essential effectiveness of current antibiotics, which is the subject of Issue 8, there is one other reason this new legislation is important from my perspective. By prohibiting antibiotic misuse, Bill 27 should force factory farmers to take steps to lessen overcrowding and to clean up the pestilent living environment of their animals - perhaps even to abandon the horror that is the system of factory farming itself.

They certainly will no longer have recourse to the routine dosing of antibiotics to keep these suffering animals alive.

This is a landmark, overdue, tremendous piece of legislation, signed into law in a visionary state, which I for one, am proud to call home.

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ARTICLE:

Update: The new rules were finalized on January, 18, 2017.

As we’ve reported in the past, buying certified organic meat doesn’t guarantee the animals were treated humanely. And while there’s no cure-all for an industry that often prioritizes economy over animal welfare, things may be looking up for animals raised on organic farms in the U.S.

That’s because a set of rules called the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) won last-minute approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and could make it onto the Federal Register to become law within the week. The OLPP enacts comprehensive animal welfare standards covering living conditions (particularly for poultry), healthcare, slaughter, and transport.

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California Gets Tough on Widespread Use of Antibiotics in Livestock

California Gets Tough on Widespread Use of Antibiotics in Livestock

STEPHEN COMMENT:    California State Assembly Bill 27, which places tough restrictions on the use of all antibiotics on farm animals, was signed into law on October 10th by Governor Jerry Brown. This is a monumental victory for animal welfare and for us.

 “The law is a game-changer,” says Avinash Kar, a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It instantly puts California at the forefront of U.S. efforts to end livestock misuse of antibiotics.” And as Maryn McKenna also notes in this excellent article, “According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, California is the country’s biggest dairy producer and third-leading state (behind Iowa and Texas) for beef cattle. It produces 5% of US milk, beef cattle, and chicken eggs, and because of the new law, the lives of all the animals responsible for those products will change. … And maybe more important, California has always been a place that sets trends for the rest of the country to follow.”

The massive overuse of antibiotics on factory farmed livestock, administered routinely in their food and water to maximize weight gain and for disease prevention and control, is a practice that is completely unnecessary when humanely rearing sustainably farmed, pastured livestock – as nearly any small family farmer or rancher will tell you.

It may be considered a necessity on factory farms because the living conditions, due to vast overcrowding, are so vile, so toxic and so debilitating that, without constant dosing of antibiotics, large percentages of factory-farmed livestock very probably would succumb to disease and die.

In addition to protecting the essential effectiveness of current antibiotics, which is the subject of Issue 8, there is one other reason this new legislation is important from my perspective. By prohibiting antibiotic misuse, Bill 27 should force factory farmers to take steps to lessen overcrowding and to clean up the pestilent living environment of their animals - perhaps even to abandon the horror that is the system of factory farming itself.

They certainly will no longer have recourse to the routine dosing of antibiotics to keep these suffering animals alive.

This is a landmark, overdue, tremendous piece of legislation, signed into law in a visionary state, which I for one, am proud to call home.

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ARTICLE:

California is about to become the first place in the United States to put tough legal restrictions on the ways farmers can give antibiotics to livestock, going far beyond what new federal rules allow.

The controls come courtesy of a law that has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, which he will sign by Sunday. Bill 27 (prosaically titled, “Livestock: use of antimicrobial drugs”) represents the only legislation ever enacted in the U.S. that puts enforceable limits on antibiotic use, gives a state agency oversight of how farmers use the drugs, and prescribes fines if they go beyond what is allowed. (Update: Brown signed the bill one day after this was published, Saturday, Oct. 10.)

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Watch “Farm Aid 30: A Song For America”

Watch “Farm Aid 30: A Song For America”

“Farm Aid supports a food system that is democratic, independent, competitive and locally based. This isn’t an exercise in nostalgia, it’s a commitment to a way of life. These are values worth fighting for.” - Eric Schlosser

"Farm Aid works with local, regional and national organizations to promote fair farm policies and grassroots organizing campaigns designed to defend and bolster family farm-centered agriculture. We’ve worked side-by-side with farmers to protest factory farms and inform farmers and eaters about issues like genetically modified food and growth hormones. By strengthening the voices of family farmers, Farm Aid stands up for the most resourceful, heroic Americans—the family farmers who work the land. Farm Aid’s Action Center allows concerned citizens to become advocates for farm policy change.

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10 Things You Didn't Know About Pigs

10 Things You Didn't Know About Pigs

Pigs keep their sleeping dens and toilet areas separate and their sleeping and living areas spotless.

Pale pigs have very sensitive skin, so they cover themselves with mud to prevent sunburn and protect themselves from insects.

Scientists rank pigs as one of the most intelligent animals, following closely behind apes and dolphins.

+ 7 more!

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The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business by Christopher Leonard

The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business by Christopher Leonard

STEPHEN COMMENT:  I met Chris in 2014 after a speaking engagement promoting this new book. Chris, in his speaking and in his writing is not prone to hyperbole. That’s part of what makes his message so powerful.

“The American supermarket seems to represent the best in America: abundance, freedom, choice. But that turns out to be an illusion.”

“Journalist Christopher Leonard spent more than a decade covering the country’s biggest meat companies, including four years as the national agribusiness reporter for the Associated Press.” The Meat Racket reveals “how a handful of companies executed an audacious corporate takeover of the nation’s meat supply. He shows how they built a system that puts farmers on the edge of bankruptcy, charges high prices to consumers, and returns the industry to the shape it had been in the 1900s before the meat monopolists were broken up. “

This is a section intended to commend an outstanding individual, not to recommend a product, but it is impossible to commend Christopher Leonard without mention of his important eye-opening book, The Meat Racket.

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Idaho’s Ag-Gag Law

Federal Judge Strikes Down Idaho’s Ag-Gag Law

STEPHEN COMMENT:   Big Agriculture, confronted by increasing public awareness of the endemic, despicable cruelty and suffering factory farmed animals endure, as documented in widely circulated undercover videos shot by workers at their facilities, had to act to address the problem. 

The soulless Big Ag corporate executives who make the decisions, decided that profit trumps any concern they may have about the suffering factory farmed animals endure. Rather than investing in improving the conditions for the millions of animals in their custody, rather than losing sleep over the health risks passed on to their customers, the consumers of factory farmed meat, they lobbied state representatives to propose legislation criminalizing clandestine image and sound recording at these facilities – what has now become known as Ag-gag laws.

Eight states, including Idaho, currently have Ag-gag laws on their books. Many other state legislatures had similar bills proposed that were defeated and did not become law.  

Idaho’s Ag-gag law, this past August, has been struck down on constitutional grounds. 

U.S. Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that the state’s 2014 Ag-gag law violated the First Amendment and selectively targeted critics of the industry. The judge wrote that “the effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment.” 

He also wrote that “The facts show the state’s purpose in enacting the statute was to protect industrial animal agriculture by silencing its critics." 

We anticipate this ruling will survive appeal and that these egregious, unconstitutional Ag-gag laws in seven other states to be similarly challenged, and struck down. 

An Opinion in the Brattleboro Reformer is noteworthy: “this is also a win for small, family-owned farms that strive to be responsible caretakers of the land and their animals. The more people know about how their meat is raised and slaughtered before it makes it to the dinner table, the better educated they are to make choices that are right for their families. While that slab of meat at the supermarket may be cost-effective, it may not be the best for our health, the planet or our own consciences.”

AARP and numerous other groups have voiced concern about the dangers inherent in these laws. They adversely effect other industries such as health care and child care. Michiarel commented to the Opinion above, “ I would sure hope that someone working in a child care facility or health care agency would be held to the same standard of honesty. It makes one wonder what the agricultural facilities have to hide.”

Each of us, along with our First Amendment rights as defined in the Constitution, are better off today as a result of Judge Winmill’s ruling.

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ARTICLE: 

Some good news!

Yesterday a federal judge has ruled that Idaho’s law banning secret filming of animal abuse at agricultural facilities is unconstitutional.

The ruling comes after a coalition of animal activists, food safety, and civil liberties groups sued the state more than a year ago, opposing the so-called “ag gag” law. At the time, journalist Will Potter said of the bill, “It’s a direct attack on whistleblowers, investigators, and journalists. Most importantly, laws like this are an attempt to keep everyone from knowing what really takes place behind closed doors on factory farms and slaughterhouses.”

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An Ag-Gag Law Has Been Ruled Unconstitutional For The First Time

An Ag-Gag Law Has Been Ruled Unconstitutional For The First Time

After years of animal rights activists saying the spate of state laws outlawing undercover investigations of farming operations—so-called ag-gag laws—violate free speech rights, a federal judge has ruled the very same.

On Monday, U.S. Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the District of Idaho said the state’s 2014 law—which came in response to an exposé video produced by the animal rights group Mercy for Animals that went inside an Idaho dairy farm—both violated the First Amendment and selectively targeted critics of the industry. It’s the first time such a law has been struck down on constitutional grounds.

In his summary opinion, the judge wrote that “the effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment."

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Alan Lewis

Alan Lewis

STEPHEN COMMENT:  Alan Lewis directs Government Affairs and Food and Agriculture Policy for Natural Grocers - Vitamin Cottage, a thriving 60-year-old natural food grocery chain operating 90 stores in fifteen states. His work sourcing healthy sustainably farmed foods for Natural Grocers keeps his customers happy and healthy and enables numerous family farmers to thrive. Cottonwood Creek Farms is one example. Alan is active in many trade organizations and sits on the Boulder County Food and Agriculture Policy Council. His focus is on communicating with local and federal policy makers using frameworks that are non-confrontational and inclusive. In his TEDx talk, archived in VIDEO’s – Candy’s Room, Alan reveals the sophisticated methods used by the food industry “fibberati” to manipulate, deceive and distract us and suggests that we can resist these nefarious tactics by making conscious food choices based on core values that support a sustainable and just food system.

As an industry insider, Alan Lewis knows just how badly the food system is broken. Alan’s insights are far reaching…

Here is the first part of my interview with Alan. He talks about what makes Natural Grocers so unique as a natural food grocery store chain and his efforts sourcing natural foods from regional sustainable family farmers, helping them grow their businesses and building the rural communities they are a part of.

In the next part of the interview Alan and I discuss the historical relationship of American farmers and the government, the secret design behind modern government farm policy, the battle to protect meaningful truthful product labeling, Big Ag’s takeover of university agriculture departments, research and ideology. We also discuss localized food re-distribution and other promising solutions going forward.

Sign up with us to receive all of this. Here’s part one.

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The Secret Lives Of Cows

The Secret Lives Of Cows

“Cows have a secret mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships, and become excited over intellectual challenges.” - Jonathan Leake, Science Editor, The Sundays Times

Have you ever seen a cow put her problem solving skills to the test? Or heard of cows who like jazz? No? Then prepare to be amazed! Behind their doe-eyed gaze, cows have a hidden depth that might surprise you.

Click through the photo gallery to discover some remarkable facts about these often underestimated animals:

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‘We Are Fed Up!’: Thousands March Against TTIP & GMOs In Berlin

‘We Are Fed Up!’: Thousands March Against TTIP & GMOs In Berlin

STEPHEN COMMENT:  Many many factory farmed products, animal and agricultural, distributed and sold to American consumers, are banned for health reasons from import or sale in the countries of the European Union and other countries elsewhere around the world. Factory farmed animals, Big Ag products like GMO engineered seeds and pesticides like Monsanto’s Round Up are banned. When these huge corporations exert diplomatic and political pressure to try to force legislative change in foreign countries, informed citizens see the threat and don’t hesitate to mobilize and make their voices heard.

50,000 people took to the streets in Berlin earlier this year. We should celebrate, learn from and follow their example.

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ARTICLE:

A broad alliance of farmers, ethical consumers, and anti-capitalist activists staged a march through Berlin that numbered up to 50,000, to denounce the proposed TTIP treaty between the US and EU, and mass farming technologies.

More than 120 organizations joined the fifth annual ‘We are Fed Up!’ demonstration, which this year focused on the increased importation of American farming practices – such as genetic modification, frequent antibiotic injections for animals, and chemical meat treatments – following the implementation of the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

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Chipotle Proves Sustainable Food Sourcing Is Profitable

Chipotle Proves Sustainable Food Sourcing Is Profitable

STEPHEN COMMENT:  By any measure, the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain of fast casual restaurants has been a huge success. Founded in 1993 with one restaurant in Denver, it now has nearly 1,800 outlets across the U.S., Canada and Europe, opening 192 new locations in 2014 alone. Its stock has been trending steadily upwards for the last decade, while more traditional fast food chains like McDonald’s, a former investor in Chipotle which divested in 2006, have been experiencing sales drops.

At the same time, it has been more conspicuous than virtually any other major food chain in touting its sustainability efforts. It released a mission statement in 2001 called Food With Integrity (FWI), which launched its journey to using more organic produce, pasture-raised dairy, and hormone- and antibiotic-free meat raised humanely as well as sourcing more of its food from family farmers in the area where each restaurant is located.

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Study Proves Sustainable Farms, Organic Farming Beats Factory Farms

Study Proves Sustainable Farms, Organic Farming Beats Factory Farms

For those who are appalled at the way animals are treated in conventional livestock production, there is a better way. Sustainable livestock production practices include providing greater animal welfare, increasing biodiversity, and extending good working conditions to those who care for the animals, all while maintaining a profitable business. A new study clarifies this further, showing how sustainable livestock care outperforms that of factory farms.

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The PEW Charitable Trusts: Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming

The PEW Charitable Trusts: Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming

STEPHEN COMMENT:  Powerful, well researched and persuasive, the research briefs published by the PEW Charitable Trusts Human Health and Industrial Farming initiative, make a strong case “to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics by phasing out the overuse and misuse of the drugs in food animal production.” Laura Rogers is the HHIF Director, Gail Hansen is Senior Officer.

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ON THEIR SITE:

Doctors routinely warn patients that antibiotics should be used only to treat bacterial infections, at the proper dosage, and for the full course of treatment, because failure to follow these rules increases the likelihood that some of the bacteria will survive and mutate to become drug resistant. Yet many large producers of meat and poultry feed antibiotics to their healthy food animals simply to offset the effects of overcrowding and poor sanitation, as well as to promote faster growth.

In fact, up to 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States go to healthy food animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all testified before Congress that there was a definitive link between the routine, non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics in food animal production and the crisis of antibiotic resistance in humans. This position is supported by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other leading medical groups who all warn that the injudicious use of antibiotics in food animals presents a serious and growing threat to human health because the practice creates new strains of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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