Dec. 12 2011 06:00 AM

Media oversimplification of so complex an issue often misleads consumers.

It was yet another preeminent national symposium whose sound-bites you didn't see on the evening news.
Agriculture and facts are never sexy enough for TV unless people are sick, animals are abused, or a celebrity vegan is leveraging his or her status. But the considerable wisdom that came out of "Antibiotics Use in Food Animals: A Dialogue for Common Purpose" in Chicago deserved to be shouted from the rooftops so every consumer could hear.
Presented by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, human and animal health experts alike agreed that judicious use of antibiotics is sometimes required to provide safe and nutritious food at a reasonable price, and prevention of infectious disease improves both animal and human health. It's also morally right and ethically mandated.
As one speaker pointed out, "Every graduate entering the veterinary profession swears an oath to protect not only animal health but also welfare, and to not only relieve animal suffering but also prevent it – and that can require the use of antibiotics in food animals."
"Speaker after speaker made it clear that the use of antibiotics in food animal production is a complex issue that is often oversimplified by consumer media trying to make the topic understandable to readers and listeners," said NIAI. "Unfortunately, this simplified presentation of a complex issue often results in the public being misled, and misperceptions take root.
"The message to the livestock and poultry industries is plain and simple: Remain focused on disease prevention and continual improvement of good animal husbandry practices," it added.
A 20-page white paper written in layman's terms that addresses conflicting views, assumptions, and perceptions regarding the use of antibiotics in food animals was generated out of the symposium and is available as a PDF file on the NIAI website at It's a summary well worth reading.