In Texas, 18,000 cows perished in a fire. It's a horrifyingly commonplace debacle.

The disaster issue with factory farming, explained.

The Texas panhandle dairy farm explosion and fire on Monday has been dubbed the deadliest cattle barn fire ever recorded: It killed 18,000 cows and left one worker in critical condition.

The state fire marshal is still looking into what caused the fire at South Fork Dairy Farm in Dimmitt, 75 miles northwest of Lubbock. 

Castro County Sheriff Sal Rivera stated in an interview with a local news station that the manure management equipment at the facility may have played a role. 

It could have overheated, igniting the methane and other substances and causing an explosion and fire to spread, he said.

Surprisingly frequently, fires occur on large-scale animal farms, also known as factory farms. 

According to the non-profit Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) based in Washington, DC, barn fires have resulted in the deaths of at least 6.5 million domesticated animals—mostly chickens—in the United States over the past decade.

The flames are essential for a more extensive example of mass loss occasions on industrial facility ranches, where the vast majority of America's meat, dairy, and eggs are created. 

Some are the result of human or mechanical error, but many are the result of natural disasters like hurricanes, blizzards, and extreme temperatures like the one that killed thousands of cows in Kansas last summer and caused them to be dumped in a landfill. 

Illness episodes, as well, bring about mass demise or separating on ranches.

However, the Dimmitt fire was unusually large. Since the ranch was gigantic — with purportedly 19,000 steers, it was among the greatest dairy ranches in the nation — it killed a significant degree a greater number of cows than are normally killed in flames, enough to fill 26 football fields, as per a USA Today examination. 

To put things into perspective, 548 cows were killed in a single fire in the United States between 2018 and 2021.

When contacted by phone on Thursday, South Fork farm owner Frank Brand stated that he was unable to comment.

As more mega-factory farms spring up, cramming ever more animals into cramped warehouse-sized sheds, high death tolls may become more likely in the future. 

While the total number of dairy cows has remained roughly the same, the number of farms in the United States that have at least 1,000 dairy cows has more than tripled between 1992 and 2017.

Processing plant ranch fires, made sense of

"Fires at animals and poultry creation and capacity properties are very normal and have been for quite a long time," the Public Fire Insurance Affiliation detailed recently. 

Animal ranches don't have a similar fire codes and wellbeing prerequisites as structures intended for people. 

In addition to being filled with flammable materials like hay, farms frequently lack sprinklers and fire alarms. 

Outbuilding fires are regularly brought about by failing warming or electrical frameworks, as per the NFPA, and are more normal in colder states in the Midwest and Upper east.

Because they can kill so many animals at once, fires at large industrial facilities are especially concerning. 

Chicken plant homesteads can house many thousands or even large number of animals every year, so a solitary fire at one of these offices can represent most of outbuilding fire passings in a year. 

About 92% of the 6.5 million animals that were killed in barn fires were chickens, followed by pigs (about 2%) and cows (less than 1%).

AWI says that the actual number is probably much higher because not all states have the same reporting requirements and farm animals are property and don't have much legal protection from suffering. 

Media reports of these occurrences frequently center around monetary misfortunes to cultivate proprietors, as opposed to the massive enduring of cultivated creatures who consume to death.

The National Fire Protection Association's Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities Code, which mandates fire protection measures on farms, could be adopted by additional state agencies to help mitigate the risk of fires. 

The most recent edition, which was released in 2022, mandates fire drills, employee training, minimum building spacing, annual fire hazard inspections, and contacting emergency services when alarms go off. 

The farm code has only been adopted by a few states.

According to Granger, producers of meat, dairy, and eggs themselves could implement relatively straightforward reforms to prevent fires: collaborate with experts and officials in the fire service to carry out proactive inspections of fire safety, ensure that equipment is regularly inspected, and implement employee training and emergency planning.

"Sadly, the business has not willingly volunteered to take on the code in their own norms and rules that they use as a piece of their certificate programs or evaluating programs," Granger said.

In order to better comprehend the scope of barn fires, the reporting system could also be improved. 

Fire officials frequently fail to include the number of animals that have perished in their incident reports.

However, the more fundamental issue is the size of factory farms, which can increase the difficulty of preventing and controlling fires and other disasters and result in alarmingly high death tolls.

This was evident, for instance, during the bird flu outbreak that occurred the previous year, when the poultry industry used the horrible method known as "ventilation shutdown plus" to kill tens of millions of farm birds, effectively causing heatstroke. 

Gwendolen Reyes-Illg, a veterinary adviser to AWI, wrote a letter in May of last year in which she urged the largest veterinary association in the country to support restrictions on the size of factory farms. 

In her letter, Gwendolen argued that the proliferation of mega-factory farms was contributing to the use of that cruel method because meat producers found it impractical to deploy other cull methods in facilities as large as these.

Meat producers receive taxpayer-funded reimbursements to recoup their losses for many kinds of natural disasters and disease outbreaks, but not for barn fires unless they started as wildfires. 

Recently, there has been movement in Congress to hold the livestock industry accountable for such disasters. 

Toward the end of last year, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) presented a bill that, among different arrangements, requires enormous meat and egg makers to plan for catastrophes and pay the expenses of managing them, including cleanup and removal of creature cadavers. 

The thought is that constraining the business to incorporate a portion of its gamble would keep makers from causing hurt for nothing.

Although the bill doesn't have much chance of passing this Congress, it shows, among other things, that Washington can't ignore the health and environmental issues caused by factory farming any longer. 

For America's enormous rural states, including Texas — where everything's greater — the Dimmitt misfortune ought to be a reminder about the dangers of a food framework progressively reliant upon super-sized manufacturing plant ranches.

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