Page 14 - May-June 2012

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14
May/June 2012
Public Citizen News
Local Government Drops Lawsuit Against Occupy Chattanooga
WIN!
In a victory against an attempt-
ed misuse of the court system, a
county lawsuit against Occupy
protesters in Tennessee has been
dismissed.
The Hamilton County, Tenn.,
government in March voluntarily
dismissed its own lawsuit against
Occupy Chattanooga and nine
individuals.
Public Citizen and Chattanooga
attorney David C. Veazey repre-
sented the Occupiers.
In the suit, the county asked a
court to determine the validity
of the county’s new anti-demon-
stration ordinance and to award
court costs. The protesters asked
the court to dismiss the case, ar-
guing that a local government
cannot sue its citizens to get a
court ruling that its own law is
constitutional and then force the
individuals to pay the county’s
litigation costs.
Although Occupy movements
in various cities have initiated
court battles over the extent of
their rights, this lawsuit appears
to be the first of its kind against
Occupy demonstrators.
“We are pleased that the coun-
ty has abandoned its attempt to
drag Occupy demonstrators into
federal court in a baseless suit,”
said Scott Michelman, the Public
Citizen attorney who was lead
counsel on the case. “Allowing
this case to proceed would have
set a dangerous precedent for lo-
cal governments that might want
to use the threat of court costs to
chill political activity.”
The Occupy Wall Street move-
ment, which began in Septem-
ber, has brought the issues of
income inequality and excessive
corporate power to the forefront
of the national political conver-
sation and has inspired demon-
strations in cities across the U.S.
and around the world.
In solidarity with Occupy Wall
Street, a group of demonstrators
organized Occupy Chattanooga
and gathered, at times remain-
ing overnight, on the grounds
of the Hamilton County Court-
house. On Jan. 4, the Hamilton
County Commission passed an
ordinance prohibiting camping
out overnight at the courthouse
and requiring county approval of
demonstrations on county prop-
erty. On Jan. 10, the county filed
a lawsuit against a group of pro-
testers and others seeking a dec-
laration that its ordinance was
valid.
On behalf of the defendants,
Public Citizen on Jan. 30 filed a
motion to dismiss the case. That
motion was pending when the
county voluntarily dismissed
the suit.
The case,
Hamilton County v.
Alexander
, was filed in the U.S.
District Court for the Eastern Dis-
trict of Tennessee. A copy of the
defendants’ motion to dismiss
is available at www.citizen.org/
documents/2012-01-30-Occupy-
MTD-FULL.pdf.
FDA Must Address Antibiotic Crisis in Livestock
WIN!
By Barbara Holzer and Bridgette Blair
For decades, low doses of antibiotics
have been added to animal feed to promote
growth in livestock and prevent potential
infections from the unsanitary living condi-
tions on industrial farms.
The overuse of these antibiotics has re-
sulted in a rise of antibiotic-resistant bac-
teria, which can be transferred to humans
through consumption, direct contact and
other means.
Because of the growing health threat to
humans, the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) in 1977 proposed withdrawing its ap-
proval of certain antibiotics for uses in live-
stock other than to treat disease.
Then, under industry pressure, the agen-
cy failed to act — for 35 years.
On March 22, a federal court ordered the
FDA to start the process of withdrawing ap-
proval for most nontherapeutic uses of pen-
icillin and tetracyclines in animal feed.
The order stemmed from a lawsuit filed
in the U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of New York by Public Citizen, the
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),
Center for Science in the Public Interest
(CSPI), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT)
and the Union of Concerned Scientists
(UCS). The groups were represented in the
lawsuit by lawyers from NRDC.
Several of the groups have a long history
with this issue. Public Citizen, CSPI, FACT
and UCS submitted a petition in 1999 urging
the FDA to withdraw approval of a range of
antibiotics (including penicillin and tetracy-
clines) added to livestock feed.
FACT and UCS submitted a second peti-
tion to the FDA in 2005.
Antibiotics, which are mixed into the feed
or water for healthy farm animals includ-
ing chicken, turkeys, pigs and cows, are ad-
ministered at levels too low to treat disease.
About 70 percent of all antibiotics used in
the U.S. are given to healthy farm animals
at these low doses to promote growth and
compensate for unclean living conditions,
according to the Union of Concerned Sci-
entists. Using antibiotics at these low, non-
therapeutic levels results in surviving bacte-
ria that are resistant to antibiotics.
“Research has shown that the use of an-
tibiotics in livestock leads to the develop-
ment of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that
can be — and has been — transferred from
animals to humans through direct contact,
environmental exposure, and the consump-
tion and handling of contaminated meat
and poultry products,” the court said.
According to NRDC’s court documents,
annual antibiotic use in U.S. livestock has
quadrupled from 7.3 million pounds in 1970
to 28.8 million pounds in 2009.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the
American Medical Association, the Infec-
tious Diseases Society of America, the Cen-
ters for Disease Control and Prevention, the
Institute of Medicine of the National Acade-
my of Sciences, the U.S. Department of Agri-
culture, the World Health Organization and
many others have identified in recent years
that the routine use of low-dose antibiotics
for livestock growth promotion has signifi-
cantly contributed to the rapid proliferation
of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animals
and humans.
“After 35 years of inaction, the FDA is fi-
nally being forced to address this threat to
public health,” said Michael Kirkpatrick, a
Public Citizen attorney.
What’s next?
Following the court’s order, the FDAmust
initiate proceedings to withdraw approval
of certain antibiotics for use in animal feed.
The drugmakers may contest the withdraw-
al proceedings.
In addition, the court case is not over yet.
The court has not ruled on whether the FDA
must begin the process of withdrawing ap-
proval of other antibiotics that are unsafe to
use in farm animals.
In an effort to address the issue, in April,
the FDA proposed voluntary guidelines ask-
ing drugmakers, farmers and veterinarians
to stop using certain antibiotics to enhance
growth or improve feed efficiency.
However, Kirkpatrick noted that volun-
tary guidelines are not enough to reduce
the public health threat of antibiotic use in
healthy farm animals.
“They are basically suggesting it might be
nice if [the industries] change their ways,”
Kirkpatrick said. “That’s not what we have
an FDA for. The FDA has a statutory man-
date to protect human health. They’re pre-
tending to do something while not really
doing anything.”