24 September 2018

3.4 Million “Live Inventory” – Chickens and Turkeys – Drowned or Starved to Death in North Carolina Storm

Published as an original article today on Animals 24-7 with Afterword by ANIMALS 24-7

By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns

Chicken farm buildings are inundated with floodwater from Hurricane Florence near Trenton, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Chicken farm buildings inundated with floodwater from Hurricane Florence near Trenton, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A caring person’s reaction to learning that millions of chickens and turkeys and pigs drowned in North Carolina this month is the gut-wrench of sorrow and pity for these helpless souls and outrage at the companies that didn’t see fit to protect their captives from the hurricane they knew was coming.

But just as farmed animal businesses are indifferent when a fire burns and suffocates to death millions of chickens and other animals trapped in cages, crates, and confinement sheds, so they are indifferent when, instead of flames, the disaster occurs in the form of floods.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported last week that 3.4 million chickens and turkeys and 5,500 pigs died in Hurricane Florence. The company most cited was Sanderson Farms who told journalists that 1.7 million of its 20 million chickens drowned or starved to death in the sheds when the company couldn’t get food to them.

Pleased to report that none of its personnel appear to have died in the storm, Sanderson Farms noted, by contrast, that its “live inventories” were not so lucky, and that its focus now is on “replenishing our live production inventories.”

Companies like Sanderson needn’t worry. Between insurance payouts and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s indemnification program, agribusinesses can comfortably repair and rebuild their flood-or-fire-damaged buildings and quickly restock millions of new individuals, the same as they always do whenever weather or diseases such as avian influenza devastate their “inventory.”

Does anyone think that companies permitted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to suffocate millions of chickens and turkeys to death in rolling tides of fire-fighting foam as a means of mass extermination – does anyone think these companies care about the animals? An article in Poultry World on September 20th exemplifies what matters to them: North Carolina-based Butterball, the largest turkey producer in the U.S., assured everyone that the storm’s impact “would not lead to any pre-Thanksgiving turkey shortage.”

While businesses that “own” animals have an obligation to protect them against foreseeable disasters, the unfixable problem is that the entire life of the majority of animals in food production is so miserable that just about anything that ends their life sooner than later may be viewed as preferable to being “saved.” Saved for what? The experience of chickens and turkeys, in the words of veterinary scientist John Webster, is, he said, “in both magnitude and severity, the single most severe, systematic example of man’s inhumanity to another sentient animal.”

The only way out of “man’s inhumanity” for these animals is to be rescued or dead. “Rescue” must mean more than literally removing a certain number of animals from whatever human-engineered horror they are in – important as every rescue is. The rescue these animals need most from us is from the plate. If people don’t buy them, they won’t be born, and that will be good.

References in order of citation:

United Poultry Concerns, National Fire Protection Association Rejects Pleas for Farmed Animals in Second Round of Proposals, January 17, 2015.

Sanderson Farms, Sanderson Farms assesses damage from Florence. September 18, 2018.

Hurricane Florence claims 3.4 million US poultry, Poultry World, September 20, 2018.

United Poultry Concerns, Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) - What You Need to Know, 2007.

United Poultry Concerns, Government Approves Firefighting Foam to Exterminate Birds, 2006.

John Webster, A Cool Eye Towards Eden, Blackwell Science, 1994.