By Karen Davis, PhD, President of UPC In late December 2014, 7,500 turkeys and 200 pigs suffocated and burned to death in building fires in Minnesota. Star Tribune reporter Maya Rao said in her article that more farmed animals - overwhelmingly birds and pigs - are vulnerable to building fires than ever before: "Massive casualties in the Upper Midwest, the heart of the nation's livestock production, have surprised even longtime professionals," she wrote, noting that 300,000 hens died in a La Grange, Wisconsin fire, 150,000 hens died in a Galt, Iowa fire, and 13,000 pigs died in a fire near Truman, Minnesota. These are just a few of the barn fires that have recently been reported.
Minnesota's fire marshal's office does not track the number of animals killed in farm fires which typically break out in rural areas where no one's around in whatever state they occur in. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has taxpayer-funded reimbursement programs for agribusiness catastrophes such as fires, disease outbreaks, snowstorms that collapse building roofs and similar disasters affecting thousands of animals at a time. So protected from the effects of the fires are the owners of the trapped animals that tracing the causes of the fires isn't required. Insurance companies are said to be "working" with farmers to improve safety.