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Since January 2016, over 10,000 innocent lives have been tragically lost in the province of Ontario, Canada alone. These are the victims of preventable barn fires – cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, and horses have all died horrifically. Recently, there has been a significant increase in the number of fires occurring in barns and stables. This epidemic of fires is beginning to draw attention to the serious lack of safety regulations and measures applied to agriculture. Ontario’s fire code is greatly out of date and no longer relevant to the large-scale factory farms that exist today. With more and more animals crammed into tight spaces, confined and unable to escape in an emergency, drastic changes need to be implemented in order to prevent fires from occurring in the first place. The lives of farmed animals are continuously filled with misery and deprivation, why do we continue to let them die in preventable fires as well? What can be done to help them?
Barn Fire Claims 4,000
In February 2017, a massive fire broke out near Sarnia, Ontario Canada. 4,000 pigs lost their lives that day due to the lack of basic protection. 4,000 innocent animals suffered horribly at the hands of human greed. Animals raised on factory farms spend their lives living in filthy conditions, confined, trapped, and unable to move or exhibit natural behaviors. Imagine the sheer terror one would feel knowing there is no escape, no safe place to flee to when disaster strikes. This is exactly what happens on a far too regular basis.
It is a stark reminder that society lends more credence to financial gain and loss than to the unnecessary suffering endured by animals. When a fire wipes out an entire barn, first thoughts turn to how much money was lost instead of how many lives were destroyed. Farmed animals are treated as mere commodities. Hundreds of thousands die annually in barn fires in Canada. The numbers are staggering: 50,000 ducks died in Quebec; 2000 pigs died near London, Ontario; 43 racehorses were killed in Puslinch, Ontario; and 50 cows, 20 calves perished near Walkerton, Ontario. These are just a few examples in a long list of recent tragedies – a drop in the bucket.
There is no reason why preventive measures cannot be put in place, even in the form of simple alarms and smoke detectors would be an improvement. There is no reason why farmed animals are thoughtlessly allowed to burn to death without any hope of escape. As author Melanie Joy once wrote, ‘To identify with others is to see something of yourself in them and to see something of them in yourself – even if the only thing you identify with is the desire to be free from suffering.” No one, human or non-human animal, should have to endure the fear and agony caused by ignorance when barn fires can be avoided.
Lack of Safety Measures
It is not mandatory for barns and stables to adhere to the same safety standards and regulations that are applied to housing, businesses, and other buildings in our communities. There are no requirements for sprinkler systems, alarms, smoke and heat detectors, or firewall installation. In other words, there is an extreme lack of any type of safety precaution. Thus once the flames take hold, there is very little that can be done. This not only leads to massive fatalities but also puts the first responder’s lives at risk.
Ontario’s Fire Code has not been updated in 20 years. It continues to fail the animals in every respect. Subsection 1.3.1 of the Code explains that “a farm building with an occupant load of not more than one person per 40 square meter of floor area during normal use and other premises on a farm used for farming purposes are exempt from the requirements of this Code.” Therefore there are no regulations, no rules, and no recommendations available to prevent the senseless deaths of so many defenseless animals. Change is long overdue.
How You Can Help
As Anna Pippus, director of farmed animal advocacy with Animal Justice Canada stated, “allowing them to burn alive with no means of escape is yet another manifestation of a broken food system that fails to acknowledge animals as the sensitive individuals they really are.”
You can help by educating yourself and others about the realities surrounding egg, meat, and dairy production and sharing what you know. If you reside in Canada, please take a moment to sign the crucial petition calling for better protection of animals from fire by not only implementing standard safety practices but also allowing the SPCA to jointly investigate with the Fire Marshall. In cases where fires were caused by negligence, charges should be brought forth for unnecessary animal suffering.
All image source: Jo-Anne McArthur/WeAnimals