Many Americans, not just livestock producers, have been concerned about the disregard of basic Constitutional rights that have surfaced during this corona virus epidemic. Abuse of power at local, municipal and state levels has been somewhat surprising and certainly disturbing.
That is a subject for several columns. But this one is about an abuse close to home for animal agriculture, of a governor using the Covid-19 platform and a news conference about same to push a personal agenda based on misinformation and personal contacts.
Being tone deaf is one thing. Misrepresenting and misleading the public is another. Letting personal fringe opinions affect the performance of public duty is another. Frightening people unnecessarily has become so second nature to some politicians enamored with the power they have seized using the Covid-19 problem as a ruse, we’re not even sure they know they are doing it.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis illustrated all those shortcomings and more during a news conference ostensibly about the Covid-19 situation in the state (05/20/20).
Instead, right near the beginning of his part of the news conference, he attacked animal agriculture, a segment of the economy struggling to handle the corona virus situation as it is and critically important to his state’s economy.
Polis’ lecture was even more inappropriate as the corona virus is a virus, not a bacterial infection, yet he sent on at length about the use of antibiotics, the possibility of a bacterial infections epidemic and animal agriculture contributing to antibiotic resistance in humans. And the research paid for by Colorado citizens at Colorado State University, University of Colorado-Denver and other medical institutions had some years ago contradicted the claims in his lecture.
He began by warning people that because the HIV/AIDs virus was a “zoologic [sic] virus,” -- he evidently meant zoologically-based -- and the corona virus is apparently also connected to animals thought to be bats, we should all “as humanity, as a country, as a state,” “reflect on our practices around animals.”
Everyone, by now, should know that the corona virus is a virus. Yet Polis took the opportunity of the virus update to lecture “humanity” about antibiotic use in animal agriculture, the outdated notion that animal agriculture contributes to antibiotic resistant bacteria in humans.
“One of the bills I used to sponsor in Congress -- and I would call upon Congress to pass -- is one that could prevent a future pandemic event of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
“There is no good reason for prophylactic use of antibiotics in non-sick farm animals. It is very dangerous. We are asking for it. We already have antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It’s extremely dangerous, it’s extremely deadly. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
“I hope that Congress and the world act to, of course, allow sick animals to be medicated with antibiotics. But we don’t dose healthy humans with antibiotics or we would cause great incidence of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
“We are doing it on even a greater scale to the detriment of human health in `Big Ag.’
Yet 2016 research in Colorado research facilities, using next generation DNC sequencing, identified many antimicrobial resistance determinants present in the environment in feedlots and packing plants, none of which survived the multiple standard interventions packing plants use to eliminate bacteria and other possible pathogens in the process. The beef coming out of modern packing plants contains no antibiotic resistance determinants that could trigger antibiotic resistance in humans.
Meaning, of course, that the antibiotic resistance in humans must come from the adaptation and mutation of the bacteria plus the behavior of humans and medical practices such of overuse of antibiotics to treat illnesses that are viral-based and not susceptible to antibiotics.
Yet Polis either isn’t aware or doesn’t believe the science from his own state’s institutions.
Beyond that, the antibiotics Polis was referring to in prophylactic use are either seldom used in beef operations today or are a completely different class of molecules technically a part of the antibiotic class but not used for treatment of infections or diseases or in treatment-level doses.
Polis has obviously bought into the rhetoric of activists who usually favor inflammatory terms like meat “laced” with antibiotics, unaware that meat is monitored for residues, that not only does beef not contain antibiotic residues but now even at the molecular level, even DNA determinants that could be connected to resistance are notpresent.
Of course, many medical professionals admit that doctors and hospitals prescribe antibiotics, just in case the illness is bacterial, when it is viral instead, giving the body’s system a chance to develop resistance to an antimicrobial for future battles.
We have never heard anything about wet markets for meat or animals in Colorado but Polis brought that into the Covid-19 news conference, too.
“So I hope that in addition to closing wet markets, obviously they’re not legal in our country, we should crack down on any that are,” Polis said. “But I’m grateful that China has banned them. That needs to be enforced across the world.
“We should also look at our sustainable practices to make sure we are not creating the very next pandemic like this one from a zoologic [sic] cause just as HIV-Aids was, just as corona virus is, just as the 1918 flu was -- avian-derived from birds.
“So it’s really important, in terms of husbandry practices, as well as limiting the wildlife and bush meat trade, to make sure that we can contain the next pandemic before it starts. Because we’ve all found out it’s not very fun to try to contain it after it starts.”
Bush meat trade? Husbandry practices? Is Colorado’s governor accusing American ranchers, farmers and feeders of posing a threat to creating the next pandemic? Is he comparing China’s lab security practices and wet markets with the U.S., one of the most scrutinized, inspected and safest food supplies in the world?
Since the governor saw fit to take an aggressive, activist approach to attacking animal agriculture, perhaps some context is in order. For this portion of his news conference, the governor appeared to be looking down at a prepared text. It would be interesting to know who might have fed him some of this rhetoric. The governor’s domestic partner is a known animal rights activist and vegan. The governor maintains a vegan household, although he himself eats meat. But he has also indicated in what would be considered “in your face” gestures to his department of agriculture that he would like to see more emphasis on plant-based meat substitutes.
The activist left has little compunction in using any opportunity to push their agenda and Colorado’s governor evidently subscribes wholeheartedly to that philosophy. But Colorado’s citizenry deserves more focus on the proper business at hand than activist proselyting. To say nothing of getting the state’s economy in gear.