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Nearly 4000 hogs died in a barn fire this past Thursday. The death these intelligent creatures have faced is mortifying. Desperately trying to get away from the thick toxic smoke, the burning heat inside the barn.

Manitoba is the largest hog producing province in Canada. In the last decade, numerous hog barns have burnt down killing tens of thousands of pigs. There are two important facts on the horizon: the Manitoba government has lifted the hog barn moratorium. This means more hogs barns will be built – despite many areas already saturated with them.

The second important fact is, the fire code is being reworked for structures housing farm animals. The Office of the Fire Commissioner has been mandated to streamline and simplify what was the Manitoba Farm Building Code to the Manitoba Building Code, with specific provisions for farm buildings. This fire and brutal loss of so many hogs present an opportunity for the provincial government to show they care about animal welfare. The re-examination should – and we say must – prepare more stringent methods to ensure the safety of the animals confined within these structures.

We have read and been told that not much can be done to reduce or prevent hog barn fires. We must demand more from ourselves: animals deserve this care and consideration. Much can be done to prevent, stop or slow a fire down: fire classification systems should include livestock, not just the number of employees; there can be increased/improved sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems that detect heat, smoke and motion; emergency management plans – including blueprints that clearly define critical features such electrical sources, water supply, fire extinguishers, exits; separating sections by concrete walls that will dramatically slow the progress of a fire, are a few notable suggestions we have received. What fire prevention systems can be retrofitted into older buildings? Intensive hog barn productions are a cruel fate. Now is the time to do more.

There are many things you can do to help:

  1. Reduce meat/poultry consumption, so there is lower demand for these animals. Try to participate in “meatless Mondays”, that is a great way to start.
  2. Buy humane certified meat/poultry or even better, buy direct from local farms. We have lots of farmers humanely raising their animals, allowing them to express all their natural behaviours and housing them in safer structures.
  3. Talk to your MLA about the importance of strengthening the building code so animals don’t perish cruelly in fires.

If we all make choices to help animals, industry will change. A better future for animals is in our hands.