Friday, August 11, 2017

Choose Your Apocalypse

As disappointing as the PBS News Hour has been on political reporting, their series with Paul Solman and Miles O'Brien reporting on the financial and scientific aspects of the agricultural uses of antibiotics has been nothing short of wonderful. This long neglected subject is well explored, complete with the interview with the owners of an industrial chicken operation who said they had their scientists look at the question of whether their use of industrial doses of antibiotics could possibly cause any problems in the world of drug resistant microbes.
The owners looked earnestly into the camera and assured the viewing public that their very own company veterinarians and assorted scientists looked into the matter and determined none of the antibiotics the company was pumping into their chickens was causing any problems at all for the chickens, the consumers or the world of microbial resistance. In fact, the antibiotics were being used for the "health of our chickens" the company owners said. And we are all for healthy chickens.

Upton Sinclair observed:  "It is difficult to bring a man to understanding, if his salary depends on not understanding." Thus it is with the company's veterinarians. 

All of these chicken producers, the owners, the scientists were on TV and so visibly, willfully blind to the harm they do. 

It is a wondrous thing to behold, actually, watching people talk themselves into obvious lies. Oh, we have been looking into Obama's birth certificate and you just wouldn't believe the things we're finding. Oh, those slaves were happy to be slaves. They were clothed, fed, housed, just happy, happy, happy.

Ditto for the pig and cow farmers who shove all their livestock into pens, snout to tail and keep them there, standing in their own excrement, developing open sores and infections which they try to prevent with large doses of antibiotics.

The English and most of Europe refuse to import American pork, beef or chickens, pointing to the horrid conditions in which these animals are kept. Of course, the Europeans have financial reasons of their own for not wanting to compete with the American mass production machine, but the Brits have said they don't want to emulate the efficiency of the Americans because it is a ruthless efficiency and cruel. The Germans, after all, were very efficient at Auschwitz, moving the cattle, branding them, disposing of those who could not be worked. 

Americans have turned living, sentient beings into industrial production centers, packed tight, unable to move, fed, slaughtered and packaged. And with all that crowding, infection control demands industrial doses of antibiotics, and with that, drug resistant, pathogenic E. coli and a variety of super bugs.

And meanwhile, your local doctor is spending hours on the phone with patients who are demanding antibiotics for their viral sinus infections, which the antibiotics will not help but the patients want them and the doctor is determined to fight the good fight and prevent the overuse of antibiotics, so he fights on, patient by patient,  saving a 500 mg dose of antibiotics while the cow and pig and chicken farmers are pouring tons of antibiotics over the land every day.

Bacteria do love to mutate around whatever antibiotic we bring out to hammer them with. The agribusiness giants are out there looking at their ledgers and their private bank accounts. They don't care if humankind dies off with infectious diseases, just as long as there are enough customers left to fatten the wallets of the corporate owners.

The great American business creed.

The big question is which will get us first:  superbugs resistant to all antibiotics or global warming with the North Pole melting and all Santa's elves drowning.

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