Addicted to Antibiotics
How Factory Farm Drug Abuse Makes Vets Rich
By Nils Klawitter
It's no secret that factory farms use unconscionable amounts of
antibiotics when fattening up animals for market. In Germany, however,
veterinarians play a crucial role in the abuse. Many are getting rich in the
process, but the risks to both human and animals are many.
When Almera the cow suffers from twisted bowel or Avatar the llama shows
signs of tuberculosis, Björn Seelig is on the scene. He is a veterinarian in
the Taunus Mountains, north of Frankfurt, and one of Germany's best-known
veterinarians. He demonstrates his dexterity in an afternoon television show
on Germany's VOX channel.
The program, the name of which can be
translated as "People, Animals and Doctors," depicts touchingly idyllic
scenes of country veterinarians striding across springtime meadows in their
rubber boots, hard at work next to grazing lambs. Strong medications are
rarely used in this television world.
The idyllic scenes are deceptive.
Many of Seelig's fellow veterinarians, with access to an entire battery of
drugs on the shelves of their practices, take a completely different
approach. In the past, veterinarians, including those in Seelig's practice,
used these drugs in abundance and on a large scale. Indeed, a year and a
half ago, three veterinarians in his practice were ordered to pay fines
totalling €90,000 ($117,000).
They had sold huge quantities of drugs,
some of which were not approved, and dispensed dozers of liters of
medications to animals to which they should never have been administered.
Investigators with the public prosecutor's office in the western city of
Wiesbaden called the operation a "pharmacy on wheels." Antibiotics were
allegedly stored on pallets. A former employee told investigators at the
time that the veterinary clinic was essentially a mail-order operation for
drugs, and that the pharmaceutical industry had expressed its gratitude by
giving the clinic huge discounts.