Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is highly disturbed to learn of a recent fire in Yong Peng, near Batu Pahat, Johor where a chicken coop was razed to the ground along with the 74 000 chicks. Although such incidents of fire killing thousands of chicks are sporadic, barn fires capture less public attention than they deserve because they happen in rural areas, often far from major populated centres. However this should not be taken as a trivial matter but viewed with serious concern by the agriculture authorities. Being burned alive is said to be the most painful way to die. When the temperatures started rising due to the fire, it basically created a wildfire like effect that just raced through the chicken house. Often, there are too few workers on hand to do anything to help the animals. By the time firefighters arrive it is often too late. These hens will continue to choke and burn to death, while firefighters go on putting their lives at risk to battle flames that are deadly. In addition, farm workers and first responders are put at terrible risk every time one of these fires breaks out.
These birds are hyper-confined in ways that under normal conditions cause severe stress. Add an inescapable death by searing heat, its hard to imagine a worse fate. Even amidst the horrific mass death, chickens are regarded as mere commodities rather than casualties and their suffering is sadly ignored. The news solely focuses on profit loss, leaving out the anguish of these birds trapped to burn alive. Their deaths often measured by weight and financial loss rather than by number of lives.
The first thought would be how much money was lost instead of how many lives destroyed.
It is a stark reminder that society lends more credence to financial gain and loss than to the unnecessary suffering endured by animals. Though destined to be dinner, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, chicken and ducks are not farm equipment or produce. They are sentient beings capable of experiencing fear and pain and they deserve to be protected from the inconceivable torture of being burned alive.
The agribusiness facilities such as buildings, shed, or barns with thousands of birds being raised for meat in a single shed, and several thousand egg laying hens in a single battery-cage unit make their evacuation, when a fire breaks out, virtually impossible.
The lives of farmed animals are continuously filled with misery and deprivation and with more and more animals crammed into tight spaces, confined and unable to escape in an emergency, drastic changes need to be implemented in order to prevent fires from occurring in the first place.
They live awful enough lives as it is on dirty, crowded factory farms. Can society ensure that they at least will not be burnt alive or suffocate to death before we get around to slaughtering them?
As long as our culture continues to view farmed animals as fungible commodities, then this will allow farmers to dismiss animals as unworthy of protection from horrific harms like fire. In a society deemed civilized and humane this is unacceptable.
Farm animals give their lives to supply Malaysian’s demand for meat and animal products.
It is time to draw attention to the serious lack of safety regulations and measures applied to agriculture. There is no reason why preventive measures cannot be put in place even in the form of simple alarms and smoke detectors. There is extreme lack of any type of safety precaution. There are no regulations, no rules, and no recommendations available to prevent senseless deaths of so many defenceless animals.
Change is long overdue allowing them to burn with no means of escape is yet another manifestation of a broken food system that fails to acknowledge animals as the sensitive individuals they really are.
S M Mohamed Idris