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
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!