Animal agriculture far too often gets more than its fair share of the blame for the global problem of antibiotic resistance, so when I saw that U.S. President Barack Obama proclaimed November 13-19 as Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, I had to see what he had to say.

The proclamation was pleasantly surprising. While animal agriculture production was mentioned, as it should have been, it wasn’t blamed as a major contributor to the problem.

Mentions of antibiotic use in animal production

In his proclamation, Obama stated: “A major factor contributing to the emergence of antibiotic resistance is the inappropriate use of antibiotics, which are among the most frequently prescribed medicines and are also given to animals that are used for food.”

Later on in the text of the proclamation, Obama stated: “Last year, with recognition that our public health is connected to the health of animals and the environment, especially with regards to the spread of disease, we hosted the White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship to bring together key human and animal health stakeholders to identify successful strategies and opportunities for collaboration. We must continue working with food producers, health care providers, leaders in the private sector, and the American people to improve our antibiotic use.”

If anything, the president is praising the livestock and poultry industries for increasingly doing their part to use antibiotics judiciously and minimize its contributions to the antibiotic resistance problem.

Human antibiotic use concerns

Obama also reminds us as humans that we all can do our part to reduce our antibiotic use.

“When antibiotics are used inappropriately, including when they are not needed -- such as for treating viral infections like the common cold, or used in wrong doses or for the wrong period of time -- the likelihood of antibiotic resistance is greatly increased, reducing the effectiveness of these antibiotics in the future,” the proclamation reads.

My hope is that everyone takes this message to heart and instead of looking for who to blame for the problem, would instead focus on how they can be a part of a solution.

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