Every year, millions of farm animals die as a result of natural disasters. Floods, extreme heat or cold, wildfires, and other weather events present grave risks to animals, especially those in confinement. This year alone, nearly 5.5 million farm animals perished from hurricanes Florence and Michael. Chickens and turkeys were at the highest risk—sheds built to house and “grow” these animals are often in far-off, low-lying areas that are vulnerable to flooding. Pigs are also frequently at risk for the same reason.
Unfortunately, because of the sudden nature of these events, and the lack of incentive for disaster planning, many producers do not take action to protect their animals. In fact, some federal programs such as the Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Indemnity Program may actually create incentives for farmers to neglect animals under their care. Under this program, producers may receive indemnity payments for livestock deaths regardless of whether any precautionary measures were taken to protect animals from death.
Another major cause for concern is damage to animal waste infrastructure. After Hurricane Florence, several hog waste lagoons in North Carolina were found to have damage and were at risk due to flooding and heavy rainfall. These lagoons store massive amounts of feces produced by the thousands of animals confined on industrial farms. Overflow or breech of these lagoons presents danger of groundwater contamination and exposure of locals to Salmonella, insecticides, and pharmaceuticals present in the wastewater.