Fire at Phillips Co. Confinement kills 9,000 pigs

Fire at Phillips Co. Confinement kills 9,000 pigs
By Craig Volland, Agriculture Committee Chair

On June 6, 2017, a fire killed 9,000 pigs at the Husky Hogs breeding operation in Phillips County, Kansas. This incident even made national news. Far from an isolated event, these tragic conflagrations like this one are common in the pork industry as we documented in an article posted on the Chapter website in 2013.

While searching for more information on this latest incident in Kansas, I discovered that two other hog factories had burned elsewhere in the Midwest in just over a week in June. One entailed the death of some 4,000 pigs on June 8, 2017, in New Bothwell, Minn. The other fire “killed numerous pigs” on June 15, 2017, at a Smithfield operation near Albany, Mo.

The story on the New Bothwell incident included the following:

“The farm has had a difficult spring, first having to deal with porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED). PED is very contagious and is generally fatal to small pigs, although older pigs can recover. ‘So this will just complicate that, as there will be a lot of traffic coming and going. So we want to make sure we do not contribute to the spread of this for sure,’ said [Jason] Falk,” a part owner of Hespeler Hog Farms.

The PED virus is a very common and intractable virus in the pork industry for the same reason that fires usually kill all the pigs in these confinement buildings. Operators are cramming as many animals into these spaces as possible to make extra profit. Thus, along with disease and massive use of antibiotics, hog farm fires are just another artifact of the industry’s reliance on intensive confinement technology.

One would think the industry would reconsider their deeply flawed technology, but they have made an enormous investment over the past 30 years. Because of their political power, state and federal regulation is weak. The industry also exists to serve Americans’ prodigious consumption of meat.

At the moment our only recourse is to refuse to buy factory meat such as one will find in almost all fast food restaurants and grocery stores. Instead, one can source animal products (meat, eggs, dairy) from an increasing number of local, diversified family farmers who are using pastured techniques to raise their animals (free-range) or shift to a plant-based diet.

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