Sharp increase in animals killed in fires; animal rights groups, coalition party demand measures

Fire hose (Photo: Vitaliy Ragulin / Wikimedia Commons)Fire hose (Photo: Vitaliy Ragulin / Wikimedia Commons)

So far this year 176 thousand chicken, pigs and cattle were killed in 13 barn fires, according to figures from animal rights group Wakker Dier. That is already far more than the 122 thousand animals that died in 31 fires last year, according to figures from the fire brigade and insurers. Animal rights organizations and coalition party D66 are demanding measures from Minister Carola Schouten of Agriculture, AD reports.

After a fire in a stable in Streefkerk last week, which only 15 of the 1,500 pigs inside survived, Wakker Dier launched a petition in the form of a funeral card campaign. On the front, the card shows a picture of a pig with the text: "This pig died unnecessarily and hundreds with him. 22 August, Streefkerk". On the back is a call for Minister Schouten to make fire alarms, decent fire extinguishing facilities, and escape routes mandatory for all barns and stables in the Netherlands. Some 8 thousand people already signed these cards, according to the newspaper.

Dierenbescheriming also demands measures. "The Minister leaves it up to the farmers themselves", spokesperson Dik Nagtegaal said to AD. "But then people keep fighting about the costs and the cause of the fires. That doesn't work." 

Coalition party D66 supports the animal rights groups in their demand for measures. "It is disappointing to me that Minister Schouten is still not working on tackling stable fires, even though we agreed on that a year ago", parliamentarian Tjeerd de Groot said to the newspaper.

The Dutch association of insurers VNV calls on farmers to do more to protect their animals against fire. According to the VNV, fewer and fewer insurers are willing to insure stables. "That is a clear signal to the farmers', spokesperson Oscar van Elferen said to the newspaper. "If insurance costs are too high, then insurers will no longer cover it or only at much higher premiums."

Agriculture union LTO Nederland told AD that it is open to making improvements. "However, measures must really contribute to fire safety and lead to fewer dead animals", director Alfred Jansen said to the newspaper. The presence of more fire extinguishing water and better escape routes does not necessarily help, he said. "Many fire brigades already have water trucks with which the can extinguish for the first half hour. And making an animal flee is not easy. They do not have a flight instinct, a pig will often not leave its cage." Fire-proofing the technical room in stables, on the other hand, is effective, he said. "We are now looking into whether we can implement this in the coming years. Because it has been proven that this helps."

Jansen calls for nuance in the discussion about stable fires. "The first half of 2019 went really well, and you hear little about that. Now there are some fires shortly after each other."

Dierenbescherming shows understanding for farmers. "Farmers are also trapped in a system in which they have to produce at the lowest price", Nagtegaal said to the newspaper. "Their margins are low and the regulatory burden is high." The group therefore calls on the government to provide funds so that farmers can increase the fire safety of their stables.