Want To Make Farming More Ethical? Support These Regulations!
Want To Make Farming More Ethical? Support These Regulations!



There is a reason hospital burn units have the highest turnover of nurses. There is a reason the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York City and the 2012 Tazreen Fashions fire in Bangladesh live on in the world’s consciousness. There is a reason hell is depicted as eternal fire. Perishing from a fire is an unfathomable death.


Yet millions of farm animals a year die in just this way–in preventable fires enabled by industrial scale, “factory” farming. Recent burn victims include 7,000 turkeys at a Butterball operation in North Carolina, 250,000 chickens at an Ohio Fresh Eggs, a Costco supplier and 500,000 chickens at Moark Hatcheries, a Walmart supplier in Colorado. These heartbreaking fires are underreported and news stories always say “no one was injured.” What? After it allowed 250,000 birds to perish, Ohio Fresh Eggs even had the temerity to assure the public its “Easter egg donation project” would proceed as planned. A few hundred thousand burned hens would not affect the supply of cheap, plentiful eggs.


In 2012, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) addressed the sad and preventable scourge of farm fires by proposing an amendment requiring all newly-constructed farmed animal housing facilities to be equipped with sprinklers and smoke control systems. NFPA already requires sprinklers in facilities housing animals like bears and elephants that can’t be easily moved. NFPA, established in 1896, is the “leading advocate of fire prevention” according to its website, dedicated to reducing “the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.”


Animals may not be human but they suffer in the same way said Joe Scibetta, a member of the NFPA Technical Committee which drafted the amendment. “When caught in a fire, animals don’t understand why they can’t breathe or why they are in such agony. They do, however, perceive and are conscious of the terrible sensations of burning, suffocation, and pain.”


Scibetta also addressed the ethical responsibility of food producers. “In commercial animal housing facilities, when we confine animals to suit human purposes, we have an obligation to secure fire protection for them, especially due to the fact that in most of the recent . . . animal housing fire cases, humans were not on hand to effect rescue.”


But soon after the NFPA amendment, 15 Big Ag groups including the National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation, United Egg Producers and cattle, pork and dairy producers appealed the NFPA proposal and it was scrapped. The reason? Animals’ lives are not worth the cost says Big Ag.


A letter to NFPA from Michael Formica, chief environmental counsel for the National Pork Producers Council on behalf of the other Big Ag groups said that installing fire protection systems presented “staggering costs in the billions of dollars,” that many operations lack “sufficient water supply available to service an automated sprinkler system,” (let’s situate our business where there’s no water to put out fires!) and even that installing such systems and “the sprinkler water itself” would spread disease!


The maneuver was similar to a 2008 show of Big Ag force when the FDA tried to ban dosing of farm animals with cephalosporin antibiotics. It would be too expensive to farm without cephalosporins said Big Ag in unison and they won–the FDA backed down.


“While babbling that ‘no one feels [the loss of their animals] due to accident, operational errors, disease or fire more acutely than’ farmers do, in reality the animal farming industry prefers to let the trapped chickens, turkeys and other captive animals burn to death in agony and terror, and simply replace them and the buildings with insurance money plus taxpayer dollars funded through the US Department of Agriculture,” says Dr. Karen Davis, president of United Poultry Concerns.


It is not even the “cost of doing business,” said Davis in an interview, because the government and insurance pick up the cost of the animals allowed to burn to death. It is a win-win prospect for factory farmers.


Did Big Ag win this round, ensuring once again, cheap food at the cost of animal suffering? Not necessarily! Animals lovers, food activists and concerned consumers can post online comments about the NFPA animal housing fire proposal before May 16 and send written comments before April 11.”It is an open consensus process,” says NFPA. United Poultry Concerns has also placed a petition on Change.org. Most of the cruel conditions factory farms use to make cheap food are hidden from public view and animal decimating fires are a case in point.


  • MaryFinelli

    Thank you very much for addressing this alarming matter and the literally life-and-death amendment. If agribusiness genuinely cared about the animals it exploits it would voluntarily employ these safeguards. That it opposes the measure reveals their total lack of concern for the animals’ well-being.

    Animals in these fire traps have no chance whatsoever in the event of a fire. No one should perish that way, especially when it is so preventable. Please help the chickens, cows, pigs and other sentient beings who will otherwise burn or suffocate to death: request that the NFPA adopt the amendment. It’s plainly a matter of human decency.

  • chickenadvocate

    you for your excellent coverage of the suffering and death by fire of millions of
    chickens and other animals in farmed animal confinement facilities each year in
    the United States, and the need – and opportunity – to mitigate the situation
    through a resolution by the National Fire Protection Association requiring all
    newly-constructed farm animal housing facilities to install sprinklers and
    smoke control systems – a humane proposal opposed by the agribusiness lobby
    claiming it would cost to much.

    burned alive is said to be the most painful way to die. For animals in confined
    housing operations, the prevalent animal farming system in the U.S. today, the situation is unfathomable in its cruelty.
    These animals are hyper-confined, and cannot flee the fire as they would
    otherwise do. Add an inescapable death by searing heat and slow asphyxiation,
    and it’s hard to imagine a worse fate. In a fire, the animals shriek loudly in
    terror, bang desperately against the bars of their cages and pile on one
    another in their panic and fear at being trapped and killed.

    The number of fires in farmed
    animal production operations each year, according to the U.S. Fire
    Administration, is nearly 7,000. Since thousands of birds, pigs and other
    animals are typically locked inside a single building, farmed animals
    constitute far and away the largest number of fire-related victims. For
    example, in March 2013, 6,000 baby chicks burned to death at a Perdue facility
    in Maryland, and in January 2014, 300,000 egg-laying hens burned to death in a
    single building at S&R Egg Farm in La Grange Wisconsin. It is time to hold
    agribusiness accountable by urging the National Fire Protection Association to
    impose a requirement that all newly-constructed animal housing facilities must be
    equipped with sprinklers and smoke control devices. Thank you again for publicizing this issue. We
    urge people to get involved.

    Karen Davis, PhD, President of
    United Poultry Concerns. http://www.upc-online.org

  • rodentx2

    If we continue to deny the “right to life” to other sentient beings–our evolutionary kin and fellow Earthlings–why bother? 3.9 billion years of the evolution of life on Earth, and ONLY humans have a right to life? Why is it that everything we humans do takes the lives of other animals? If Earth were devoid of human life, but exuberantly rich in the dignity and diversity of sentient non-human life, would it be fair to say that Earth and all the other creatures who live here have no value, no value in and for themselves? I blame organized religion for devaluing life that isn’t human and preaching human “dominion” over everyone else! The other animals of this planet deserve to live better lives of their own than to be stuck on this green planet with us! May I recommend you all think seriously about committing to a vegan lifestyle? It takes a real hero to change one’s life in the face of a culture that endorses hatred, contempt, and violence to the other animals?

  • Denni A

    thank you for writing this article and providing the link for public comments.
    as others here have pointed out the horrific,tormented conditions food animals are raised under is beyond abominable. when we devalue the life of other beings with violence, suffering and torture we diminish and devalue ourselves as human beings.

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