Governor Strickland: Shut This Egg Inferno Down

OpEd News
March 27, 2010

By Martha Rosenberg

Once again, thousands of trapped animals have died from a factory farm fire.

250,000 hens at Ohio Fresh Eggs in Harpster died when firefighters “cut power to the chicken barns and ventilation systems to keep the flames from spreading,” say news reports.

Did they burn, suffocate from smoke inhalation or asphyxiate from barn fumes?  Ohio Fresh Eggs says only they were “euthanized.”  Their bodies will be sent to pet and animal processor G.A. Wintzer & Son Co. in Wapakoneta, says

Factory farms, in addition to their toxicity to workers, animals, the environment and food consumers, are fire bombs waiting to happen thanks to legions of animals packed over their own feces.  Barns are so ammonified, Maine state officials required medical care after entering barns at a similar egg farm, Quality Egg in Turner, last year.

Only eight employees tended Ohio Fresh Eggs uninhabitable 16 barns when the fire was reported says the Coshocton Tribune. That’s one employee per 250,000 hens. (see; Agriculture Brings Jobs!)

Despite state operating permits which require a written emergency-response plan for such events, 225 firefighters had to battle the blaze for hours.

Accounts of animals burning to death on factory farms are as saddening as they are maddening.  Witnesses at a Netley Hutterite Colony hog farm in Manitoba, where 8,700 pigs perished in a 2008 fire, reported hearing the animals “ear shattering” squeals and screams.”  Only six full-time employees tended the animals and bulldozers could not breach the manure pits of factory farm designs.  Fires at two other Hutterite Colonies, Vermillion Farms and Rainbow, near Winnipeg, incinerated 8,500 pigs previously.

And speaking of repeat offenders, hogs perished in the same barn in Flora, Indiana owned by Lynn Peters, where others burned to death seven years earlier.

And hog farmers Jan and Nancy Pannekoek of Chilliwack, BC, have three hog farm fires to their name—and counting.

Meanwhile, 160,000 laying hens burned to death at Green Valley Poultry Farm in Abingdon, Virginia in 2007, a facility which owner Rodney Wagner admitted was a fire trap.

With poultry operations in Croton, Marseilles, Mount Victory and Goshen Township, Ohio Fresh Eggs is truly a Teflon farm with a long environmental and cruelty rap sheet of charges it has beaten.

Accused for years of causing water pollution, manure spills and fly infestations so bad residents carry fly swatters in their own homes, the company is believed linked to Jack DeCoster, a habitual violator of environmental laws in Iowa.  Yet the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s efforts to rescind Ohio Fresh Eggs’ environmental permits for failing to disclose DeCoster’s involvement with its operations were successfully appealed.

At undercover humane investigations at Ohio Fresh Eggs, hens have been documented enmeshed and dying in cage wires, in agonal breathing in trash cans, and drowning in manure pools like so many oil spill victims.

The Ohio Fresh Eggs fire required the services of 225 firefighters from four counties and 1 million gallons of water, some from the Kildeer Plains Wildlife Area reservoir.  Thank you tax payers!

Yet the company’s “Easter egg donation project should still go forward,” said Hinda Mitchell, Ohio Fresh Eggs spokeswoman.

Officials report no injuries from the fire nor has cause been determined.  Arson has been ruled out unless you count arson by factory farming.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist based in Chicago, Illinois.
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