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Global consumption of antibiotics has accelerated the evolution of bacterial antimicrobial resistance. Yet, the risks from increasing bacterial antimicrobial resistance are not restricted to human populations: transmission of antimicrobial resistant bacteria occurs between humans, farms, the environment, and other reservoirs. Policies that take a “One Health” approach deal with this cross-reservoir spread, but are often more restrictive concerning human actions than policies that focus on a single reservoir. As such, the burden of justification lies with these more restrictive policies. We argue that an ethical justification for preferring One Health policies over less restrictive alternatives relies on empirical evidence as well as theory. The ethical justification for these policies is based on two arguments: 1) comparatively greater effectiveness, and 2) comparatively greater fairness. Yet the empirical assumptions on which these claims rest are limited by existing empirical knowledge. Using livestock farming as an example, we suggest that scientific research into characterising antimicrobial resistance and linking practices to outcomes ought to be guided (at least in part) by the imperative to supply the context-specific data needed to ethically justify preferring a One Health policy over less restrictive alternatives.

Original publication




Journal article


Public Health Ethics


Oxford University Press (OUP)

Publication Date