Organizers with the consumer advocacy group CalPIRG gathered in front of a North Park fast-food outlet on Tuesday (August 9) to deliver signatures and entice passersby to pose for "photo petitions" aimed at ending the routine administration of antibiotics to farm animals.
"The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is breeding ‘superbugs’ which cause infections our medicines can’t cure," explained CalPIRG assistant director Jacqueline Salinas, who was joined by a handful of other activists outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant at the corner of University and Utah. "Every year, 2 million Americans are affected by these antibiotic-resistant infections, and 23,000 of them will die."
In addition to treating sick animals, antibiotics have been administered to entire farm populations in attempts to stave off infection before it starts or to promote faster growth, both practices the federal government has sought to curtail due to an increase in the number of bacteria that develop immunity to the medicine and cause infections that are thus more difficult to treat. For its part, the meat industry argues that it generally uses versions of the drug that aren't commonly used to treat human infection, and that by stopping the administration of antibiotics for a period of time before slaughter, none of the drug's residue is found in consumable meat products.
Still, consumer activists say continuing the practice is cause for concern. A release from CalPIRG says over 9000 signatures were gathered on petitions being presented to the restaurant, in addition to the nationwide attempt today to get their message seen by KFC executives.
"In their corporate offices, KFC displays their Facebook and Twitter feed live throughout the day. By gathering these photos nationwide, we’ll have about 4000 posts sent directly to KFC," Salinas said of the photo petition efforts.
The group says they've seen results in the past when targeting other large franchises.
"We’ve been quite successful," said Salinas. "We got both Subway and McDonald’s last year to announce they’d stop serving meat from animals routinely treated with antibiotics, and just last week Wendy’s came on board. "KFC is our next target, because they buy over half the poultry in the country. If we could get them to stop serving chicken with antibiotics, it would be huge."
UPDATE 8/10 7 p.m.
Salinas contacted the Reader to clarify that, though KFC does not actually purchase half the country's chicken, that amount of the U.S. chicken stock could still be affected by the company choosing not to purchase meat routinely treated with antibiotics.
"If KFC commits to chicken raised without routine antibiotics, then we estimate that over half of poultry produced in the U.S. would be raised without antibiotic overuse. The reason for this is not that KFC buys over half of the poultry in the U.S. but that poultry producers like Perdue have already eliminated routine antibiotic use from its chicken production and producers like Tyson have made commitments to do so as well. We estimate that a commitment from KFC would push the amount of total poultry raised without routine antibiotics in the U.S. to over half the total amount produced in the country."