A shocking 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the US are given to livestock. Farmers use these drugs to make animals grow faster and bigger, and to prevent disease in unsanitary conditions. These “sub-therapeutic” antibiotics are contributing to the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria in humans, a problem that leads to over 20,000 deaths and costs Americans up to $26 billion per year.
Now, a new partnership between Rachel’s Network and As You Sow is working to address the problem. Through shareholder advocacy, Rachel’s Network and As You Sow are targeting large food companies that have the greatest potential to curb the overuse of antibiotics on farms.
Shareholder advocacy is a powerful way to encourage corporate responsibility on social and environmental issues, and promote business practices that are sustainable, equitable, and reduce risk. So far, there has been little shareholder engagement around antibiotic resistance and animal welfare.
Supported by a grant from Rachel’s Network members, As You Sow will press corporations like Burger King, Hormel Foods, and Wendy’s to adopt responsible antibiotic-use policies through shareholder resolutions and investor education and mobilization. The initiative prioritizes companies that lag behind their peers on this issue.
“We were inspired by the clarity and specificity of As You Sow’s approach and it was really exciting to see Rachel’s Network members rally around this effort,” said Rachel’s Network Board Director Kef Kasdin. “We encouraged As You Sow to jump into advocacy around antibiotics and now our grant will give them the ability to take this work further, faster.”
”We are grateful for the support of Rachel’s Network, and thrilled to begin this work,” said Austin Wilson, Environmental Health Program Manager at As You Sow. “This is an issue with global ramifications – the future of modern medicine is at stake.”
The genesis for the partnership began in 2013 when members heard from experts Lance Price and Bob Martin at our Fall Retreat in Austin, Texas. Members of the Rachel’s Network Sustainable Agriculture Learning Circle became deeply concerned about antibiotic resistance and animal welfare, saw an opportunity to bring the issue to the mainstream, and pledged to take action by pooling their resources.
Led by Kef and Member Abigail Rome, the Learning Circle met throughout the year and convened a roundtable in 2014 with additional stakeholders from Food & Water Watch and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The roundtable cross-fertilized new ideas between organizations, like complementing corporate advocacy campaigns with shareholder action. As many of the funders within Rachel’s Network already practice shareholder advocacy, partnering with As You Sow was a natural choice.
“Before our Retreat in Austin, I had no idea that the overuse of antibiotics on animal farms was such a serious threat to modern medicine,” said Abigail Rome. “I’m very pleased that our group of passionate women has rallied around this cause and I’m hoping that our support to As You Sow will result in announcements from these chain restaurants about their newly-developed antibiotics reduction policies!”
Since 1992, As You Sow has used shareholder advocacy to increase corporate responsibility on a broad range of environmental and social issues, and has led or actively participated in hundreds of shareholder dialogues and resolutions.