Did you know that there are no federal or provincial laws to protect animals from barn fires in Canada?
Despite the enormity of modern barns that house animals such as pigs, turkeys, ducks, pigs and cows in crowded conditions, there are no new regulations to ensure that these animals are protected in the event of a fire. Because of this, there have been massive casualties of animals across Canada who are confined in barns without adequate or any fire protection.
The Humane Society International-Canada (HSI-C) released a landmark report in March 2020, detailing the alarming rate of barn fires in Canada from 2015-2019.
From analyzing news reports, they found that 740,000 animals had perished in fires during a 4 year period. As HSI-C points out, this is most likely a very conservative number, given that the media does not always report on the number of animals killed, nor do they cover all barn fires, especially on smaller farms. However, this research demonstrates how widespread this issue is and how desperately Canada’s national building codes need to evolve.
According to Ontario’s Agricultural Ministry, 40% of barn fires within the province of Ontario are related to electrical problems. Confining large numbers of animals in often windowless barns causes a large amount of dust and other particles to accumulate, a disaster for most electrical systems. Given this risk, investing in fire protection should be a no-brainer, but expecting an industry to protect the animals they treat as products is a dubious affair. Largely due to undercover investigations and whistleblowers, we know that farms do not even meet their own standards of best animal welfare practices. The animal agricultural industry, and individual farmers who are trying to cut corners to ensure the lowest cost of production, should not be trusted with protecting the safety of their animals in the event of a disaster.
We need our federal government to take action to ensure new buildings are not constructed without adequate fire systems and that all older buildings are adequately outfitted.
We need specific fire safety requirements for barns that house animals, not recommendations that are enforced by the industry, such as the National Farm Animal Care Council Codes of Practice, which have failed to protect animals on farms from routine and abject cruelty.
We need a change in the National Farm Building Codes (that has not been updated since 1995) to reflect the sentience of animals and their ability to suffer in fires that are happening too frequently across Canada. Fire codes should not be shaped solely around human life, we must recognize the vulnerability of animals who are unable to free themselves in an event of a fire.
We want the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) and the National Farm Building Code (NFBC) who specify the requirements for the construction of farm buildings, to make recommendations to the National Building Code (NBC) to address the specific needs of animals in barns.
Until animals are no longer part of our food system, protecting them from burning alive is the least that our governments can do.
Please help us to ensure better protection for animals who needlessly perish in fires.
Updates to farm building requirements are currently being discussed!
Although the comment period is now over on proposed changes, the public can make a difference by contacting your Member of Parliament (MP) to ask them to ensure these changes to the National Farm Building Codes are made.
Remember that our MP’s are working for us and we need to show them that this issue is important. The evidence is clear, we must take action to protect animals from this preventable tragedy that takes so many of their lives.
For more information about barn fires in Canada, please read this fantastic report prepared by the HSI-C here.
Animal Protection Party of Canada
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