Protect barn animals from fire in Ontario

Protect barn animals from fire in Ontario

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Ontario has a fire code that is over 20 years old and the requirements are out of date. It also does not take into account the current farming practices of intensive confinement and crowded housing indicative of large-scale farms which, compared with past farming practices, can bring much greater devastation and deaths in the case of a fire.

Since January of 2016 in Ontario, there has been an epidemic of barn fires killing over 22,000 animals. Horses, pigs, goats, chickens and cows have perished in astonishing numbers in what can only be imagined as a death of agony with no means of escape. The plethora of fires and consequential death can only be explained by the absence of even minimal fire safety measures taken to prevent barn animals from dying in virtual deathtraps.


We, the undersigned, call on Sylvia Jones, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services and Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to ensure that:

1) Ontario building and fire codes are updated and that it be mandatory that all barns have industrial-grade smoke and heat detectors, as well as sprinkler systems. If farmers do not comply with mandatory fire prevention steps, then they should face penalties.
2) The Fire Marshal and the OSPCA (which enforces animal protection laws in Ontario) jointly investigate barn fires, and, if the fire and resulting animal suffering were caused by negligence, animal cruelty charges must be considered.

Most media articles and government publications relating to farm animal death in fires continue to represent the predominant way in which our society undervalues farm animals. Statements about fire tragedies of farm animals continue to place economic value and human safety far ahead of the suffering of animals. Farm animals are sentient beings who are placed in these dangerous conditions by humans; therefore, we have a duty to protect them from pain and suffering.

The recent toll of animal lives has brought with it concerns and outrage from several animal welfare experts:

Anna Pippus, Director of Farm Animal Advocacy, Animal Justice states that “The industry is out of touch with the public, which sees these animals as having moral worth--that's why these barn fires continually make national news, spark public outcry, and result in scathing editorials.” (February 12, 2016) Recently, Animal Justice has called for an investigation in the barn fire near Hensall, Ontario which took the lives of 1,000 pigs. (February 22, 2016)

Barbara Cartwright, CEO, Humane Canada (aka Canadian Federation of Humane Societies), outlines several relatively simple ways of preventing fires in barns. “These tragedies don't need to happen. Precautionary measures prevent the majority of fires and help to control fires if they do break out.” (February 2, 2016) Similar recommendations came in a Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs document. (2011)

Vicki Fecteau, the director of the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals, is trying to raise awareness about the large toll that fires take on farm animals, stating that “the immense scale of modern farming and the giant barns required mean the casualties are often enormous” and “that society has a blind spot when it comes to the wellbeing of livestock.” (CBC Radio, December 9, 2018)  

Finally, in reaction to the numerous fires that have swept through southern Ontario, an editorial from The Globe and Mail so very eloquently brings forward a more compassionate and modernized view of our farm animals. "The mass conflagration of farm animals in a recent series of Canadian barn fires should be a cause for alarm – and prompt deep self-examination by those who have a duty to protect and advocate for these captive beings." (The Globe and Mail Editorial, February 7, 2016)

Articles documenting fires since January, 2016 in Ontario: 

Jan 4 (2016):  43 standard-bred horses die in a fire at Classy Lane Stables in Puslinch, ON

Jan 12 (2016): Barn fire kills all chickens inside barn near Listowel, ON

Jan 14 (2016): 12 horses die in a barn fire in Mount Forest, ON

Jan 17 (2016):  500 milking goats and 30 cattle die in a barn fire near Delaware, ON

Jan 19 (2016):  2,100 pigs die in a massive barn fire just west of Parkhill, ON

Jan 23 (2016):  Nearly 200 pigs are killed in a barn fire north of Stratford, ON

Feb 1 (2016): More than 80 dairy cows die in a barn fire outside London, ON

Feb 19 (2016):  1,000 pigs are dead in a barn fire near Hensall, ON

Feb 24 (2016): 70 cows are dead in a barn fire in Brockton, ON

Feb 25 (2016): 30 pigs are dead in a barn fire near Atwood, ON

Feb 27 (2016): 9 horses die in barn fire in Otterville, ON

Mar 26 (2016): 44 cows die in barn fire in Maryhill, ON

Apr 5 (2016): Dozens of calves die in barn fire in The Blue Mountains, ON

Apr 18 (2016): 100 cows die in barn fire in Tecumseh, ON

May 30 (2016): 40 cattle die in barn fire near Drayton, ON

June 9 (2016): 120 Goats, 20 Cows Killed in Pair of Suspicious Barn Fires in London, ON

July 16 (2016): 50 cows killed in barn fire in Thorold, ON

Dec 3 (2016): 640 pigs killed in major barn fire in Goderich, ON

Feb 1 (2017): 4,000 pigs die in barn fire in Plympton-Wyoming, ON

Feb 7 (2017): Dozens of chickens killed in barn fire in Thames Centre, ON

Mar 23 (2017): 500 pigs die in barn fire in Seaforth, ON

Aug 1 (2017): 1,000 piglets burn alive in barn fire in Tavistock, ON

Jan 7 (2018): 150 pigs, at least 8 horses and 12 chickens burn to death in fire in Wellesley Township, ON

Jan 9 (2018): 1,800 pigs burn to death in barn fire in Stratford, ON

May 21 (2018): 16 horses perish in fire at Sunnybrook stables in Toronto, ON.

Nov 6 (2018): 250 goats, 2 horses and over 20 rabbits perish in barn fire near Mount Forest, ON

Dec 11 (2018): 1,200 pigs burn alive in barn fire in Quinte West, ON

Apr 30 (2019): 400 pigs and 50 cattle die in barn fire – not sure if any other animals made it out alive – in Township of Wellelsley, ON.

Oct 22 (2019): 1700 pigs perish in barn fire in Kincardine, ON.

Nov 2 (2019): 3-4 cows die in barn fire in Kitchener, ON.

Feb 3 (2020): 6,000 pigs – moms and babies trapped in crates – burn to death in barn fire in Tilsonberg, ON.

Articles relating to prevention of barn fires: