Why Millions of Farm Animals Drowned During the Hurricanes
When Hurricane Florence struck the Southeast U.S. last month, in addition to devastating homes and communities, it also flooded industrial farms. News reports showed the tragic images of these facilities flooded to roof-level, and the public watched in horror as 4.1 million chickens and 5,500 pigs were left to drown inside. The fragility of factory farming has never been so obvious, and it has never been more urgent for us to change how farm animals are treated in this country.
On industrial farms, tens of thousands of dairy cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys are caged, crated or otherwise closely confined in windowless sheds. On farms of this magnitude there is virtually no ability to move or evacuate the animals, nor for animals to escape on their own in the event of a flood or other emergency. Yet many of these farms are located directly in flood zones.
Other facilities that keep, breed or exhibit large numbers of animals—including commercial-scale puppy breeders, research labs and most zoos—must be licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and by law, these facilities must have disaster plans in place to try to protect their animals should the worst occur. But animals on factory farms are afforded no such protection.
In addition to unimaginable animal suffering, disaster-affected industrial farming operations create environmental and health catastrophes. The overwhelming concentration of animals creates an equally overwhelming concentration of animal waste, often held in open-air “lagoons,” many of which overflowed during Florence. This sent massive quantities of fecal matter, antibiotics, infectious bacteria and toxic chemicals pouring into the flood waters and blanketing the region.
While we cannot predict when the next storm will come, we can be certain there will be more and that the dangers will only increase in future disasters, as climate change is expected to produce more frequent and more intense hurricanes. We can already see the effects with Hurricane Michael, which barreled down shortly after Florence and threatened dairy and poultry operations with power outages and flooding. It is still too early to evaluate the damage Michael left in its wake.
The ASPCA will continue to advocate for better treatment and consideration of farm animals through legislation and regulations. But everyone has enormous power to demand change through thoughtful food purchases. Visit our Shop With Your Heart site to find food label guides, farm lists and brand lists to help you make the most informed, compassionate choices possible. Together, we can help to reduce future tragedies and demand a better, kinder food system.
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