Super-shareholders Take on Superbugs

By Austin Wilson, Manager, Environmental Health Program

The news about antibiotic resistance has been grim. This June, bacteria resistant to the antibiotic of last resort were found in the U.S., and a prominent economist suggests that the threat is “as significant as climate change.”

One of the causes of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (a.k.a, “superbugs”) is the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in the meat industry. The majority of antibiotics in the U.S. are given to healthy chickens, pigs, and cattle to make them grow bigger, prevent, or treat illness in cramped and unhealthy environments. Other countries, such as Denmark, raise affordable meat without relying on antibiotics—they rely on good animal husbandry, including clean facilities, and quality feed.

In the first year of our new Antibiotics and Factory Farms initiative, we successfully withdrew shareholder resolutions with Hormel Foods (a leading turkey and pork producer), Wendy’s, and the parent company of Burger King. All three companies agreed to create stronger policies before the end of 2016, and two added As You Sow to their expert advisory groups. Our resolution with McDonald’s, the first resolution on antibiotics to be voted in several years, was supported by 26.3% of shares!

We are continuing to mobilize shareholders, engage new companies, and keep the pressure up on the food industry. To stop superbugs, we have to act fast.