I am a mom and a veterinarian. Helping farmers produce safe food has always been a core value of mine. Becoming a mom has only strengthened my belief that as farmers and veterinarians we should do everything in our power to produce safe food.
I know healthy pigs lead to safe pork. There is no argument on this point. Producing safe pork is the number one priority for both the pig farmers I work with as well as myself. I buy my pork from the grocery store, so you can bet that I want it to be safe for my family, friends and neighbors.
To keep pigs healthy, we implement many on farm practices, including:
- making sure pigs have access to plenty of fresh water, feed and fresh air;
- scientifically-based nutrition for the pigs while at different stages of life;
- proper vaccinations;
- rigorous barn sanitation; and
- biosecurity practices to prevent disease from entering the barn
We can do everything right to keep our pigs healthy, but just like our kids sometimes pigs get sick. And just like our kids, pigs sometimes need antibiotics to help them stay healthy and fight diseases. Pigs can’t tell us when they are sick, therefore it is up to veterinarians and farmers to identify and treat sick pigs as soon as possible. The quicker a pig is treated there is more likelihood that it will recover. I work with pig farmers to decide when, and if, an antibiotic should be used in these situations. With my veterinarian oversight, we use FDA-approved antibiotics to care for the pigs as part of an overall care plan:
- to treat disease when a pig gets sick;
- to control the spread of the disease to other pigs in their pen or barn; and
- to prevent disease in groups of pigs that are infected with a bug but have not developed the full clinical disease yet
I took an oath as a veterinarian that in part says “I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills to the benefit of society through the protection and relief of animal suffering.” I have an obligation to help the farmers I work with provide the best animal care possible and relieve animal suffering.
Antibiotics are one tool in the veterinarian and farmers toolbox to keep pigs healthy. Removing all antibiotics from our toolbox would be an animal welfare issue. I, nor the pig farmers that I work with, cannot and will not let an animal needlessly suffer when I know I have the necessary medicine that can help that animal recover.
As a mom and veterinarian I understand that the issue of antibiotic resistance is incredibly complex. I want to make sure that antibiotics can still be used when my child needs them, but also when animals need them too. We ALL play a role when it comes to antibiotic resistance, using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary in human medicine and on the farm should be our No. 1 priority. Responsible antibiotic use and continuous improvement is not only important on the farm, but is essential in human medicine as well.