Use of antibiotics in livestock production is regulated, yet it is insufficient, and there is no formal monitoring to ensure compliance to regulations. The only monitoring that may occur is the measurement of antibiotic residues in meat. However, this is often ineffective because the farmer will typically withdraw the antibiotic from feed a few days before slaughter. This lowers detection levels and the amount of antibiotics is underestimated.
One of the reasons that antibiotic use in farming feed has been so widespread and prevalent, is the perceived effect that they have upon productivity. Research conducted in the 1960’s determined that feeding antibiotics to farm animals allowed a greater percentage of the food that an animal consumed to be converted into meat, increasing productivity. Yet this now appears to be a misnomer, as discovered by Danish researchers in 1995. After discovering that bacteria in the animals were developing strong resistance to antibiotics, and that these bacteria were finding their way into the human population, causing infections in hospitals that did not respond to antibiotics and becoming difficult to treat, a voluntary ban on the use of antibiotics in feed came into place. In addition to a noticeable decrease in the incidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the farm animals within a three year period, researchers discovered that productivity did not take a huge downturn, as it was influenced by many other factors.
Believing in this misnomer, governments will be unwilling to enforce regulations or control the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in the agricultural industry, because they fear that it will hinder the ability of the industry to compete successfully with other countries for markets. It appears that profits will take priority over public health, until there is a bacterial outbreak that cannot be treated, and which threatens the continued existence of human beings.