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Big Ag Lets Hundreds of Thousands of Farm Animals Die in Barn Fires Every Year

Farm animals have less legal protection than other confined animals, such as those living in laboratories or zoos.

In January 2020, an estimated 10,000 chickens perished in a fire just west of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The blaze spread quickly after reportedly activating exhaust fans in a poultry house managed by Mountaire Farms. Delaware-based Mountaire, the sixth-largest poultry company in the United States, pumps out tens of millions of pounds of ready-to-eat chicken each week.

Less than 24 hours after the fire in North Carolina, a poultry house in Fulks Run, Virginia, burned to the ground, killing all 24,000 chickens trapped inside. The county’s deputy fire marshal, Joe Mullens, told one media outlet that the structure, which was built in 1978, was exempt from fire codes; he merely encouraged farmers to practice “good housekeeping.”

When thousands of animals burn to death, it should sound an alarm. Yet, because farm animals are viewed as expendable commodities—not beloved pets—their deaths receive little more than a passing interest by factory farm operators who produce animals by the billions and are insured against such losses. Proven fire deterrents are often completely ignored.

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