Tell it like it is
By Trent Loos
Politically correct, socially acceptable or sugar-coated. Call it what you like, but as we "grow up" we tend to soften our rhetoric to make our thoughts less abrasive to those we are addressing. Our messages become "watered down" so that we don't offend anyone. What then are we really saying? That we aren't strong to enough to support what we believe by sharing our opinions in an outright fashion? That we don't have enough conviction to tell it like it really is? I think most people appreciate it when people say what they really think and don't tell you one thing to your face and something else behind your back, so why is it that we don't really do that more often? Kids do! A wise old man once told me, "If you want to know the truth, ask a kid" and so it is in society once again.
The controversial topic of antibiotic resistance is again under review and in discussion in Columbus, Ohio, at a symposium entitled "A One Health Approach to Antimicrobial Use and Resistance: A Dialogue for Common Purpose." The second annual symposium was coordinated by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Santini, assistant state veterinarian for the state of Pennsylvania, "Antibiotic residue issues are broad and complex. A unilateral approach by just one player in the game, agriculture, human health or environmental, will not work to reverse the trend. We must all accept some responsibility and acknowledge that we all play a role. And as scientists we must explain it to the public to help change the current popular narrative. We cannot solve new problems with old solutions." All parties seem to agree that antibiotic resistance is not going away.
Dr. Lonnie King of the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine suggests that the groups must work together and find an agreement that comes as close as possible to meeting the interests and highest aspirations of everyone involved rather than settling on a compromise that leaves some dissatisfied.
Dr. Kurt Stevenson of the Ohio State University Medical Center referred to antibiotics as "societal drugs" that must be measured more carefully in the medical community in terms of prescriptions, dosage, frequency and route of administration. The goal must be to maximize clinical cure or prevention of infection while limiting unintended consequences.
All parties do have a role in addressing the subject of antibiotic resistance and the burden should not fall completely on the backs of those in animal agriculture. I may be preaching to the choir when I remind you that farmers and ranchers don't overuse antibiotics because it is simply not financially feasible for them to do so. The end does not justify the means. That is why we work closely with our herd veterinarians to develop health programs that allow us to produce the healthiest protein sources we possibly can for our consumers.
Our challenge seems to be in getting that word out and here is where the sugar-coating has got to stop. All these medical professionals can share their lingo at a big conference but our challenge seems to be getting a clear message to the consumer about our vigilance in producing healthy products. For that, we may need to turn to a kid.
That "kid" just happens to be eighth-grader Piper Merritt of the FFA chapter at Owasso, Okla. Piper boiled all of this antibiotic resistance rhetoric down into a 6-minute speech she prepared for the state FFA public speaking contest. Her speech was so amazing, and she was so passionate about getting the word out that I was truly moved when I heard her give the presentation. I featured her speech on Loos Tales radio and it was an instant hit. Her message really needs to be heard by doctors, veterinarians and every consumer in the nation.
As a result of her powerful presentation, I established the Loos Tales Merit award to recognize a young person that goes above and beyond the call of duty to improve human lives. The purebred Spot gilt that Piper will receive for the Merit award will provide her the opportunity to compete in youth livestock shows in 2013.
In accepting the Loos Tales Merit award gilt, Piper agrees to continue the tradition by recognizing other agricultural youth who rise above and beyond. She will be asked to designate one person next year to receive a gilt from her first litter.
Why can't our industry representatives and our association spokespeople just tell it like it is? Consumers think they want the truth or perhaps they are just looking to blame someone other than themselves. But either way, Piper's message tells it like it is--something we all need to do more often. Congratulations, Piper!
Editor's note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.