2.2 industry and governmental organizations, however, their power

2.2 Social mapping


To better understand what the roles of the various stakeholders involved are a social mapping is conducted. The stakeholders can be grouped into four different categories; producers of meat and antibiotics, governmental organizations, NGOs, and consumers. The most powerful stakeholders are the multinational companies like Bayer producing the antibiotics and Tyson Foods, Inc. who produces meat using antibiotics. The producers aim to be profitable by using and selling antibiotics to increase efficiency as they please. Even though both companies recognize ARM as a concern to global health they aim not to reduce their use drastically to protect their profits (Bayer, n.d.; Livitt, 2016). Governmental organizations such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have a conflicting interest in this problem as their position is to protect the public’s health but at the same time wants to support economic growth. The FDA recognizes AMR as threat to human health and the meat industry as a main driver (FDA, n.d.). The FDA has regulatory powers, however, Its strategy focuses on the voluntary corporation with the industry to promote responsible use (FDA, n.d.b). Many NGOs and other independent organizations are working to develop knowledge and awareness around the topic. These organizations believe that ARM is a serious problem that is caused by the industrial meat production industry. These organizations influence the issue by pressuring the industry and governmental organizations, however, their power remains limited. An example of an NGO is the Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT). Their aim is to work together with governmental organizations to improve their action plans and work to reduce the sales of products containing high levels of antibiotics (FACT, n.d.). The consumer is the least powerful stakeholder as their ability to make purchase decisions to reject the use of antibiotics in meat remains limited. Many product labels are providing false or misleading information to consumers making it hard to pressure the industry (the growing network, 2017). Even though many consumers are concerned about ARM very view take real action through petitions and campaigns (Gould, 2012). ARM has the potential to victimize all stakeholders as all humans and animals could suffer the consequences of this global problem.

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3. Risk society


For the following part of this essay, the Risk Society theory by Ulrich Beck will be used to analyze the problem. According to Beck in modern society technological change produces new types of risks we constantly have to adjust to. This fundamental element of risk society theory seems to reflect the issue very well which is why this approach has been chosen. To analyze the analytical value of the risk society theory for the issue at hand the key components namely the existence of contemporary risks, reflexive modernization, and sub-politics are explored.


ARM is a new risk since the extensive use of antibiotics only developed in the past decades. The use of antibiotics in the USA has increased by almost 25 percent between 2009 and 2014, figure 2.


Figure 2: increase in antibiotics used for meat production (Mother Jones, n.d.)


According to Beck’s theory, contemporary risks are not just new but differ in their nature, causes, and implications of earlier risks such as natural disasters and war. The nature of ARM is global, hard to measure, and incalculable which is characteristic of a contemporary risk. For example, the US using huge amounts of antibiotics on their livestock isn’t just endangering US lives but the US exports their meat around the world. The complexity of the issue makes that it is hard to measure and requires sophisticated techniques around medicine, environment, and agriculture. There is a lot of uncertainty about what will happen when new bacteria will develop resistance and we run out of new antibiotics to use. The cause is man-made and a direct result of modernity as the industrial production system is based upon the need for profit through efficiency which is in line with the theory.  However, the implications do not differ much. Beck argues that contemporary risks go beyond the control of science and politics and therefore erode the legitimacy of these agencies. Science and politics have a potential problem-solving capacity and a high level of legitimacy. For example, Technological development has to keep up with the evolution of bacteria by manufacturing new antibiotics, and politics has to restrict the use of antibiotics. The likeliness of continuous innovation and US politicians imposing hard measures is low since their focus remains on the cost/benefit ratio. The nature and cause are very different compared to earlier risk, nevertheless, the implications remain largely unchanged. I expected that this problem would be much in line with Beck’s description of a contemporary risk but partly fails to do so.    

Beck indicates two slightly vague concepts on how risk society handles these contemporary risks. The first concept is that of reflexive modernization meaning that the impacts of the risk should be assessed and taken into account before taking a new technology in practice. In the US few, signs of reflexive modernization are present in contrast to the European Union. The EU has largely banned the use of antibiotics as it operates on the “precautionary principle” which states that if there is evidence that a risk has very large consequences to the environment and public health measures should be taken to avoid this harm even if there is uncertainty around about the risk (Marshal & Levy, 2011). The second concept is that of sub-politics. Beck indicates that because science and politics fail to address the problem other agencies such as NGOs place the issue on the public’s agenda and by collective organization new types of solutions will be broad to the table. Sub-politics are struggling to influence the direction the risk is imposing as most decisions are still taken by large industry and political players. In 2012 Olive Garden an US-based food chain part of the Darden company was pressured by dozens of protested in seven major cities. Their petition with 130,000 signatures requested the company to minimize the use of meat raised by antibiotics. Even though Darden confirm that it will stop buying meat raised by antibiotics commonly used for humans no large impact was made (Watson, 2012). The absence of reflexive modernization and sub-politics is not in line with the risk society theory, however, may propose possible solutions for the future. If these institutions fail to address the risk sub-politics will have more room to develop alternative solutions. One way for politics and science to remain powerful institutions and to address the risk is to adopt the precautionary principle as has proven to be an effective solution in Europe (Cogliani, Goossens, & Greko, 2011). It remains uncertain if Beck’s opted solutions have the potential to be effective in the US in the future.



4. Framing


In this part the theory of framing is applied to the issue at hand. Framing is a concept used for analytic and descriptive purposes by many disciplines. The book by Goffman in 1974 influenced and support the use of the concept in sociology as a study of social movements and collective actions (Benford & Snow, 2000). By applying the social mapping it became evident that many stakeholders have a very different approach to the problem. To better understand how these different approaches are formed and grouped the framing theory was selected.


Benford & Snow distinguishes diagnostic, prognostic, and motivational aspects of frames which are used to analyze the different frame on antibiotic overuse in the meat industry. First, the diagnostic aspect of the frame is what is perceived to be the reality. Second, the prognostic aspect is about the position on good and bad. And last, the motivational aspect is about what should be done.


In the case of antibiotic use in the meat industry, three dominant frames can be distinguished. The first is the frame of serious concern. The common belief is that antibiotics used in animal agriculture are the main driver behind the public health issue of ARM. This belief is advocated by NGOs and most consumers. Via public campaigns individuals and organizations pressure the industry and policymakers to reduce the overall use of antibiotics. NGOs also work together with the industry and governmental organizations to advise them. As mentioned earlier one of the large campaigns is called ”Meat without Drugs” (figure 3). This campaign was set up by Consumer Union because the organization felt that the FDA did not supply measures to handle the problem correctly. Together with FixFood, a short animated clip was produced informing customer about the problem using scientific evidence. Together with the report ”Meat on Drugs: The overuse of antibiotics in food animals & what supermarket and consumer can do it stop it” these communication tools aim to change consumption pattern of consumer to change the system (Hunt, 2012).


The second frame of no concern is based on the belief that antibiotics used in meat production is a positive thing with no large negative consequences and is not causing ARM. To indicate the positive side commercial article state that banning antibiotics is inhumane as animals have the right to treatment if they get ill (National Hog Farmer, 2012). This idea is advocated by the producers of meat using antibiotics. The producers of meat want no action to be taken to restrict their use of antibiotics. The meat industry has much lobbying power and influences policy making to be able to use antibiotics to their linking (Nordurm, 2015b). Also, meat producers are fighting the public concern by providing misleading labeling information and press statements. Scientific information stating the unclear relation between antibiotics in meat and ARM is used to strengthen their statements. For example, Tyson Foods CEO Donnie Smith states in the Guardian that there is not a direct scientific evidence for the connection between the use of antibiotics for livestock and ARM (Livitt, 2016).


The third frame ”the concern is handled” is based on the belief that by using antibiotics more responsibly the negative consequences of ARM can be minimized. The big pharmaceutical companies are advocating this frame through powerful lobbying groups. Politics are strongly influenced by the input of the pharmaceutical industry as they are providing much assistance in developing new policies and work closely together with the FDA. For example, in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry the FDA set standards for decreasing antibiotic use for growth and feed efficiency purposes and to bring the uses of such drugs under the oversight to licensed veterinarians (FDA, n.d.c). This frame dominates the policy framework as it offers a solution that takes into account both public health and the industry profitability. Bayer states that their strategy is to promote judicious use which implies using not fewer antibiotics but using the right antibiotics in the right dose for the right amount of time and with oversight of a veterinary (Bayer, n.d.b). Bayer wants to maintain the effectiveness of its products now and in the future for the purpose of their own profitability.