Ban Drug that Sickens Livestock

Target: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Goal: Ban the use of a growth-boosting drug that sickens animals and may pose health risks for humans

Ractopamine, a so-called beta-antagonist, is a drug that boosts the production of lean meat in animals through cruel and painful means. The drug mimics natural stress hormones, causing an animal’s heart to beat rapidly and pushing them to a frantic, frightened state. Fed to somewhere between 60-80% of pigs in the U.S., America’s beef industry has recently begun adding it to the heavy cocktail of drugs standard in the diet of feedlot cattle. Demand that the FDA ban this inhumane and potentially unsafe drug from being fed to livestock.

The beef industry’s move to introduce ractopamine to their cattle’s diet is motivated by their desire to increase sales abroad. Feedlots are switching from the drug Zilmax to Optaflexx (active ingredient: ractopamine) because the original drug of choice is banned across the globe, from the E.U. to Russia and China. Interestingly, the same countries that ban meat produced with Zilmax also prohibit meat containing ractopamine. The ban was put into effect after fears that meat contained levels of the drug unsafe for human consumption. U.S. trade officials hope that foreign markets will accept the meat if they can secure a standard of production: no residual ractopamine above a certain level.

Since being introduced in pig feedlots, ractopamine has sickened over 160,000 animals. Symptoms include hyperactivity, lameness, compromised immune system or even death. And while consumers are worried that the drug might have adverse effects when ingested through meat, another note of concern is just how distressing ractopamine is for animals. Rather than green light the drug for cattle, the FDA needs to call a time out until further information is collected. Fortunately, export revenues for meat producers may deter them from continuing to administer the drug.

Frankly, it’s embarrassing that countries like Russia and China are, at least in some regards, setting higher food safety standards than the United States. The American meat industry needs to stop sickening livestock. Production and profits should never win out over health and well-being, for both humans and animals. Feedlots should stop feeding ractopamine to animals. Urge the FDA to prohibit the feeding of this drug to livestock.


Dear Food and Drug Administration,

Americans routinely eat meat that comes from sickened animals in miserable conditions. Feedlots and industry producers sacrifice health and quality for increased output. To fatten up animals and increase muscle mass, antibiotics, hormones and a whole slew of various drugs are fed to livestock daily. Ractopamine is just one of such drugs, but it is responsible for sickening over 160,000 pigs since it was first introduced.

While the European Union and other countries ban this drug from use in livestock, the U.S. meat industry is set to ramp up its administration to animals. While it has been widely used at pig feedlots, cattle companies are now beginning to make ractopamine a regular fixture in cows’ diets. No, this isn’t for the animals’ well being. Rather, ractopamine mimics stress hormones, raising their heart rates, dilating blood vessels, and tormenting animals.

More importantly, adequate studies haven’t been done to verify the effect of this drug in humans. Some scientists believe small concentrations leftover in the meat we consume may be harmful.

What does it tell you about U.S.’ food quality and safety standards when not only the E.U. but also countries such as Russia and China have banned the drug ractopamine? Shouldn’t the U.S. aim higher and lead the way for the rest of the world? I urge the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit feedlots from administering this harmful drug to the country’s livestock. Ban ractopamine to protect animals from mistreatment. Ban it for the health of America’s people.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: USDA via Wikimedia Commons

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