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What was once a petition has turned into a thank you note.

Subway, the prominent sandwich chain, announced Thursday that they plan to phase out the use of meat raised with antibiotics, prompting a public advocacy group at the University of Connecticut to shift its campaign message.

This semester, UConn’s chapter of the advocacy group PIRG spent weeks trying to collect 5,000 signatures on a thirteen-foot long Subway sandwich made of cardboard.

“The original plan was to personally deliver it to the Subway corporate headquarters in Milford, Connecticut,” said campaign coordinator Abby Katz.

The group’s goal was to get the fast food chain to stop using meat raised with antibiotics.

They were going to bring the signatures to Subway on Thursday, but in a surprise move Tuesday, the chain announced a plan to stop using meat raised with antibiotics in its 27,000 U.S. locations.

“So we’re having students sign thank you cards and take pictures that say ‘thanks Subway, good job Subway,’” Katz said.

Subway’s decision came as a victory to the 40 PIRG chapters across the country who have been working on the campaign since April.

On Thursday, UConn PIRG members stood outside the Subway restaurant in Storrs Center, taking pictures of students holding thank you notes and tweeting them to the sandwich chain.

“We didn’t end up going [to the Subway headquarters], but we will eventually send all our pictures to them online and our card to them personally or by mail,” said Katz.

Katz said the Subway’s announcement was unexpected. “On social media, there were a few posts where they vaguely referenced that they were considering eliminating antibiotics, but they never explicitly said when,” she said.

In May, Subway tweeted, “we support the highest standards of animal welfare and the elimination of the use of unnecessary antibiotics,” though they did not make any official announcements on the matter until now.

Subway said in a press release that they plan to phase antibiotics out of chicken by the end of 2016, turkey 2-3 years after that, and pork and beef by 2025. Subway did not respond to requests for comment.

According to a 2009 report from the Food and Drug Administration, nearly 29 million pounds of antibiotics are sold for animal use in the U.S. each year.

Since the mid-1950s, the drugs have often been incorporated into livestock feed to curb sickness among animals.

However, because the antibiotics fed to livestock are often similar to those given to humans, studies have shown that the prominent use of such medicines could lead to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, which could prove a threat to public health.

Subway’s decision to phase out antibiotics follows similar moves by fast food chains like McDonalds, Chipotle, and Chick-Fil-A.

Katz said Subway’s decision won’t mark the end of PIRG’s campaign against the use of antibiotics.

“We’re just waiting to hear from the national coalition what our next goal is, but until then, we’ll be working on what we’re doing now – thanking subway and letting people know about our campaign victory,” she said.

 

 

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