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Slaughter discusses animals and antibiotics

Rep. Louise Slaughter of Fairport hosted a congressional briefing Tuesday on the overuse of antibiotics in animals.

The only microbiologist in Congress, Slaughter welcomed panelists Will Witherspoon, a linebacker for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and owner of Shire Gate Farm; Frank Reese, Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch cooperative; and veterinarian and medical expert Dr. Michael Blackwell.

At Shire Gate Farm, Witherspoon applies high-welfare, sustainable farming techniques that almost entirely rule out the need for antibiotics. By following these techniques, Witherspoon doesn’t need to rely on routine antibiotic use to keep animals healthy or prevent disease.

At the briefing, Slaughter emphasized the need to reduce our antibiotic use in animals and address the growing public health threat of superbugs.

“Just last year, the United States had three major outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant foodborne illness, all from meat products,” she said. “Decades of research has shown that daily dosing of antibiotics to healthy livestock is largely to blame for the rise in resistant bacteria.”

Slaughter is the author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, designed to end the routine use of antibiotics on healthy animals and curb the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. She said antibiotic-resistant disease now kills more Americans each year than HIV/AIDS.