In April, a massive fire and explosion occurred on South Fork Dairy in Dimmitt, Texas, tragically killing around 18,000 cows. This is the deadliest fire involving cattle since AWI began tracking barn fires in 2013.
In response to this incident, AWI is pressuring the National Dairy FARM Program—the industry’s lead auditing and certification program—to revisit past recommendations made by AWI to better protect cows from barn fires. Specifically, we are urging the program to amend its animal care guidelines to require compliance with the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities Code (NFPA 150), require evacuation plans for animals housed indoors, establish tighter limits on the number of animals housed in one building, and encourage installation of fire suppression systems (e.g., sprinkler systems) in animal housing areas.
The magnitude of this event and the fact that it involved such a large number of cattle understandably caught the attention of national media outlets and state officials. However, it is not the first fire on an agriculture operation to kill tens of thousands of animals at once (it is not even the first this year). Since 2013, nearly 6.5 million farmed animals have been killed in barn fires across the United States, and large fires on massive, industrial-scale operations that kill tens or even hundreds of thousands of animals at once are largely to blame for the vast majority of those deaths. These incidents illustrate just one of the animal welfare crises associated with confining such large numbers of animals in one facility.