Allow limited use of antibiotics, to help sick cows on organic dairy farms

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One of the rules for getting your livestock farm certified as organic, is that you're not allowed to give your animals antibiotics.  This rule was created with good intentions.  On many livestock farms, where the animals are raised for meat, farmers will mix antibiotics in with the food that they feed their animals.  This allows them to keep their animals in dirtier conditions, without as much risk of the animals getting infections that they could die from.  They stop feeding the animals antibiotics a few days before they're butchered, so there won't be any antibiotics in the meat.

However, this is not the case with dairy farming.  No dairy farmer in the United States is allowed to sell milk from a cow that has been given antibiotics recently.  This is because the antibiotics would end up in her milk, and there are many people with allergies to antibiotics.  In fact, milk from all dairy farms is very strictly tested for antibiotics, and if a farmer accidentally gets antibiotics in the milk that he sells, they have to throw away the whole truckload that it contaminated!  The farmer that made the mistake then has to pay for it.

As a result, dairy farmers only ever use antibiotics on cows with serious illnesses, because they know that they won't be able to sell her milk for the time that she's on an antibiotic regimen.  However, dairy farmers that are organic-certified aren't allowed to give their cows any antibiotics ever, no matter how sick they get.  They have to make the choice to let the cow suffer and possibly die, or sell her to another farm that would be allowed to treat her with antibiotics.  As a result, cows get much, much sicker on organic dairy farms, and die more frequently from infections, when they eventually get sick.  Cows get sick more often as they get older, just like people and other animals do, so organic dairy farms usually have younger cows than other dairy farms.  This is one reason that some people prefer the taste of organic milk: because the cows on the farm that it came from were not able to get old.

Some people might object to the fact that antibiotics are synthetic, and they'd prefer anything unnatural kept out of their food.  However, most cows with infections can be treated successfully with penicillin, which occurs naturally in the environment because it's produced by penicillium molds.  Indeed, penicillin is the antibiotic of choice for treating cattle, mainly because, since it was never patented, it's not very expensive.  It takes a lot of medicine to treat a sick cow!

There are no good reasons to stop organic dairy farmers from treating their sick cows with antibiotics, just like anyone would treat a sick child or a sick pet with antibiotics, and just like dairy farmers all over the country already treat their sick cows. This practice only serves to make the cows on organic farms suffer more than cows on other farms when they have a treatable illness.  Since dairy farmers lose money whenever they treat a sick cow, because they're not allowed to sell her milk while she's being treated, they already use antibiotics sparingly.  It's time to repeal this rule already, so the needless suffering of cows on organic farms can finally end.



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