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Pressure mounts to protect flocks from barn fires

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) sent a letter to the US Poultry & Egg Association urging the world’s largest poultry organisation to immediately implement fire prevention strategies to stop devastating barn fires that have killed more than 4 million birds since 2013.

1 April 2020, at 1:44pm
“We hope that before millions more animals are needlessly killed, the US Poultry & Egg Association makes preventing barn fires a priority and works with all stakeholders to put forth meaningful solutions,” AWI President Cathy Liss wrote in a letter to association president John Starkey.

AWI enclosed a petition signed by 10,000 consumers nationwide calling on the industry group to act. This is in addition to the nearly 5,000 emailed letters that were recently sent by concerned citizens to the organisation.

In the past three years, there has been a significant increase in large barn fires, according to an AWI analysis of media reports. In total, these fires have claimed the lives of more than 2.5 million egg-laying hens and 287,000 meat chickens.

Currently, there are no laws or regulations in the United States designed to protect farm animals from barn fires, and the causes of most large barn fires remain undetermined. Historically, the US Poultry & Egg Association has opposed efforts to require fire prevention improvements in animal housing facilities. Moreover, the industry has provided insufficient information on what companies are doing to prevent and suppress fires and how they plan to expand on these efforts to prevent even more large fires and fatalities.

“At minimum,” Liss wrote, “the US Poultry & Egg Association should work with members and industry partners to conduct an industry-wide assessment of the current level of fire prevention and suppression mechanisms in animal housing facilities and of best practices to minimise the risk of a fire in large commercial egg and broiler operations.”

As producers ramp up a transition to cage-free production, new barns are being built that will remain in use for decades, housing many millions of hens. Before large-scale construction begins, it is imperative that the industry work to identify and implement measures to mitigate the risk of barn fires and dramatically reduce the number of animals burned to death.

Responding to the AWI, John Starkey, president of US Poultry & Egg Association, said, "The US Poultry & Egg Association, along with the Animal Welfare Institute, is part of the NFPA 150 Fire Protection for Animal Housing committee. Our Association is committed to setting rhetoric aside in the best interest of putting forth reasonable solutions for the protection of animals. We will continue to go through the NFPA process and take appropriate steps, as there is a mechanism already in place to address the concerns of all stakeholders."