Four farm buildings are engulfed in flames each week in Quebec, endangering the lives of thousands of farm animals.
“These are unacceptable tragedies. There are too few precautions to save animal beings, who die burned alive or intoxicated, ”laments veterinarian Jean-Jacques Kona-Boun, from Montreal, who has listed 195 fatal fires for animals on Quebec farms since 2015. .
Incidents that would have cost the lives of around half a million animals, an estimate he considers moderate.
On January 26, a fire broke out around 2 p.m. on a duck farm in Lac-Brome, in Montérégie. When the firefighters put out the fire, around 4 p.m., the buildings were in ruins: total loss. An unknown number of ducks perish in the flames.
Six months earlier, another company farm, at L’Ange-Gardien, had claimed the lives of 6,000 ducks.
“Farm fires are a real scourge in Quebec. The problem has been known for a long time, but nothing is changing, ”says lawyer Sophie Gaillard, responsible for this file at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
She argues that the Civil Code of Quebec in 2015 granted a new status to animals, which are now considered sentient beings.
The Quebec Ministry of Public Security confirms the seriousness of the phenomenon in its most recent directory on fires.
More than $30M per year
On average, 209 buildings per year for agricultural use were damaged by the flames between 2014 and 2018, can we read.
Material losses are estimated at an average of $33.55 million per year.
The problem would be partly related to deficient electrical systems that cause failures in a highly flammable environment (hay, straw, wood).
“Often, buildings do not have simple smoke alarms,” confirms Marc-André Fortier, assistant director of public security in Sutton and Lac-Brome.
Promutuel is there… not MAPAQ
“For several years now, we have seen a growing increase in major agricultural insurance claims, mainly caused by fires and building collapses,” says Lyne Gagné, Vice-President, Communications and Public Affairs, Promutuel Assurances.
At the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Quebec (MAPAQ), the file does not seem to be a priority.
Its spokesperson, Yohan Dallaire Boily, returns Le Journal to the Financière agricole, whose mandate does not cover this type of damage.
By email, he specifies that the MAPAQ has participated since 2017 in the Committee for the prevention of fires in the agricultural sector, set up by … Promutuel.
More needs to be done to protect animals from fires
We must do better to protect animals that may be victims of a fire in agricultural establishments, experts say.
“This epidemic of livestock farm fires shows us that we have not given enough teeth to this provision”, comments for her part Me Sophie Gaillard, of the SPCA.
In his opinion, Quebec farms should be equipped with fire detection systems linked to the municipal fire department.
But other measures must be put in place, for example an “evacuation plan for animals” in order to prevent them from dying in pain.
“If the victims were human, these fires would be criminal acts! says Dr. Jean-Jacques Kona-Boun, revolted by the death of more than 500,000 farm animals over the past seven years following fires in agricultural buildings.
A special status
“Since 2015, animals have been considered in Quebec as sentient beings within the meaning of the law,” comments Alain Roy, professor of law at the University of Montreal.
A vegan himself, he opposes all forms of animal cruelty. He had welcomed the amendment to the Quebec Civil Code which, in 2015, was to ensure a special status for animals.
At the forefront of the world at that time, Quebec now recognized a special status for animals that had until then been considered furniture within the meaning of the law.
The Union of Agricultural Producers (UPA) recognizes the problem, while recalling that there are approximately 28,000 farms in Quebec.
“It is to be expected that some of the buildings will be more at risk, given the age of several properties,” explains Charles-Félix Ross, director general of the Union des producteurs agricole (UPA). Incidents appear as marginal events.
He also ensures that recent buildings are safer given the standards.
Upgrading old farms would be extremely costly for farmers.