Regulating antimicrobial resistance: Market intermediaries, poultry and the audit lock-in

Steven Hinchliffe*, Alison Bard, Ray Chan, Katie Adam, Ann Bruce, Kristen Reyher, Henry Buller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has become one of the defining challenges of the 21st century. Food production and farming are a key if troubling component of that challenge. Livestock production accounts for well over half of annual global consumption of antimicrobials, though the contribution of the sector to drug resistance is less clear. As a result, there is an injunction to act in advance of incontrovertible evidence for change. In this paper we engage with the role of market actors in the precautionary regulation of farming practices and AMR threats. The paper takes the UK poultry sector as exemplary of an audit-led process that has, in recent years, achieved impressive reductions in antimicrobial use. Using qualitative interview data with farmers and veterinarians we chart the changing practices that have accompanied this reduction in treatments. We use this analysis to raise some cautions around audit-led systems of regulation. Audits can lock farms and animals into particular versions of farming and animal health; they can elevate harmful compensatory practices (including disinfectant uses); and they can reproduce an actuarial approach to an issue that does not fit the conventions of risk management. The paper presents the considerable successes that have been achieved over a short period of time in a livestock sector, while generating notes of caution concerning the audit-led management of livestock-related AMR threats.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • antimicrobial resistance
  • farming
  • audit
  • regulation
  • social science


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