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HogWatch calls for safer barns

A watchdog group says a recent barn fire illustrates the need for safer barns.

Approximately 3,500 hogs died June 8 when fire engulfed two barns last week near New Bothwell.

Hespeler Hog Farms was also one of the operations affected by an outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) earlier this spring.

HogWatch Manitoba says the fire shows the need for safeguards such as fire alarms and sprinkler systems and also underlines the group’s fears as the provincial government plans to remove “impractical and costly” fire prevention regulations in barn construction.

The provincial government announced the changes earlier this year, including:

  • A new “low human occupancy” category for most farm buildings that would reduce regulations such as the need for full fire alarm systems;
  • A goal of allowing barns to be grouped together while preventing fires from spreading between buildings; and
  • Providing more options to meet entrance and exit requirements.

At the same time the government said it planned to repeal the Manitoba Farm Building Code and amend the general Manitoba Building Code to encompass farm buildings.

HogWatch says the move is misguided and will only “make a bad situation worse.”

“Although the thousands of pigs that have died in barn fires are not someone’s pet, they are all sentient beings that have the capacity to suffer fear and pain,” Vicki Burns of HogWatch said. “If there were horrific fires like this in animal shelters like humane societies, the public would not tolerate it. We should not be tolerating this for any animal housing.”

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