Imagine this: you are in a cage so small you cannot even turn around. In a building with hundreds of other mothers also confined in cages. Something goes wrong nearby and thick choking smoke fills the building followed by a rapid increase in stifling heat. You can hear the frantic screams of your neighbours. Panic stricken, you desperately try to break free to reach your babies nearby but the bars are too strong and you only bruise yourself.
Hundreds of mother pigs had this terrifying experience when a fire broke out at a piggery the other day. Many died along with their babies. Smoke detectors and automatic fire sprinklers would have likely prevented this tragedy.
What makes this all the more shocking was that this was the fourth time that a fire has broken out at that particular piggery. According to media, the cause was likely electrical. Footage by Farmwatch have shown that some factory farms have rats running around: attracted by the feed that is readily available. Rats are known for also chewing through electrical wiring.
Fires have also broken out at other factory farms, including this fire three years ago which killed 18,000 layer hens.
It is clear from these examples that fires are an inherent risk for factory farms, which end up being death traps for the animals caged in them.
Incredibly, despite this risk and the thousands of animals that have already died on factory farm fires, there is still no legal requirement to provide fire sprinklers on factory farms.
Some factory farms – such as the Mainland colony cages that I visited last year – have chosen to install them, but it is not mandatory, and it should be.
I have repeatedly called for an end to the ‘legalised cruelty’ of factory farming. But in the meantime as an absolute minimum, it is essential that that the Minister step in and require fire sprinklers to be installed at all factory farms .