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Superbugs and bad food: How antibiotic use in animal agriculture is framed in the Australian media

Sat, September 1, 11:00am to 12:30pm, ICC, E5.2


The use of antibiotics in animal farming is a contentious issue, mainly due to concerns about the development of anti-microbial resistance (AMR) and issues for public health, but also due to concerns about food safety and quality, and animal welfare. There have been studies of the issue in the media in other locales (for e.g. Morris et al. 2016 in the UK), and this study aimed to explore how the issue is being framed in the Australian media. Findings suggest that there is very little discussion of the issue in Australia compared to other locales, with AMR simply linked to the ‘overuse of antibiotics in health and agriculture’ and few articles going deeper. In addition, much of the discussion about antibiotic use in agriculture leading to ‘superbugs’ relates to overseas practice, and more of the discussion about ‘superbugs’ overall is about food coming in from overseas with resistant bacteria already on it. In articles that mention antibiotics and farming (and not AMR), there is an emphasis on them not being used for e.g. in relation to organic accreditation or producing “ethically” for niche markets, and hence “no chemicals, no hormones, no GMO no antibiotics” was used to describe ‘good’ food. The framing of antibiotic use in animal agriculture as a problem of food safety with imported food, or with food that is produced in less ethical ways, may limit opportunities for a more sophisticated conversation about the responsible use of veterinary medicines in animal agriculture.