Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

The Carnivore’s Dilemma: Antibiotic resistance

Posted by Evan Herrnstadt on January 29, 2008

The NYT had an article on Sunday about the various consequences of eating meat. We’ve all heard about the impacts eating meat has on climate change, which are impressive:

“Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius.”

The article also points out an oft-forgotten externality associated with high-density livestock containment: antibiotic resistance. Keeping livestock in close confined quarters makes them considerably more susceptible to disease. Hence, farmers load them up with non-essential antibiotics to quell these problems (and to aid growth) and we can end up with resistant strains of bacteria.

Sarah Darley’s valuable discussion of antibiotic resistance as a global ToC can be found here.

H/T: JT and Tyler Cowen (whose post has an interesting take on animal welfare).

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