By Brook Harmon

Subway recently released a statement stating it would not be using any kind of meat that has been treated with antibiotics. In the next few years the company wants to be entirely antibiotic-free in its restaurant chain, starting with chicken this March and turkey sometime next year. Subway also hopes to follow within the next six years with both pork and beef. According to Reuters, Subway’s competitors such as Chipotle and McDonald’s plan to make a very similar change one day.

The main reason Subway is changing its policy is because the company has recently been targeted by advocacy groups petitioning for the change. Subway released a statement to its producers, so they could be prepared for the change. Despite the possible uproar caused by some, Subway is moving forward with its antibiotic-free implementation. Reuters states that feeding antibiotics to livestock “could lead to antibiotic-resistant superbugs, a health hazard for humans.”

Many farmers are very upset with Subway’s decision. Farmers want to assure the public that animal welfare really is in the best interest of the farmers. Antibiotics are often used as a treatment to increase growth and productivity of the animals; however, farmers also administer antibiotics to their animals when they are sick in order to improve their well-being. Animal antibiotics were made to help sick animals and nurse them back to health, just like human antibiotics.

If farmers stop giving antibiotics to their livestock, they might as well just put a bullet in the animals’ heads; otherwise, they might just have to watch them suffer.

Farmers use the antibiotics to increase the weight of the animals and help the animals stay alive and healthy. If the animals weigh more, they obviously have more meat for the farmer to profit from. At the same time, the animals are being treated to ensure a better-quality life. If animals are stricken with disease, they shouldn’t have to live out their lives without being treated. That is cruel.

Humans have been ingesting meat with antibiotics for many years and nothing has changed, other than people becoming more cognizant of what they are putting into their bodies. Many advocacy groups have been mixing up the difference between antibiotics and standard growth hormones. When an animal is given antibiotics, the farmer is required to leave that animal on the ranch until the antibiotics have left its system. There is a certain time period created by the FDA for this process. When animals are given growth hormones they stay in the meat for the rest of their lives and humans then ingest them. It is not even necessarily the antibiotics in the meat that are unhealthy for human consumption, but instead the meat that was given the growth hormones.

I cannot agree with Subway’s decision. I know the ropes of growing up on a farm. And because of growing up on a cattle ranch, I know the importance of taking care of a sick animal. It is the humane, right thing to do. If an animal was given an antibiotic, it truly needed it.

It is neither fair nor ethically right for an animal to suffer because a company didn’t want to deal with the real problem: the uneducated people who have not taken enough time to research the implications animals would face if companies like Subway moved forward and implemented this change. People should know that cattle and other livestock given antibiotics are not the real danger, but growth hormones are what we should be concerned with.

Animals depend on their owners to take care of them. If an animal is sick and needs to be taken care of, it depends on us to make it feel better. It is important to factor in the quality of life for these farm animals while they are alive.

Subway and other companies alike should consider the well-being of animals in making these pressing decisions. We must not forget to show compassion to our furry and feathery friends. Reconsider your moves, Subway.

Brook Harmon studies ecology. She can be reached at and on Twitter                                    @TheSagebrush.