Brand name brings attention to longtime problem
KNOWLTON, Quebec; WATERLOO, Ontario––Are an abnormal number of barn fires killing animals in eastern Canada in early 2016, or are confluences of time and place just drawing more attention to barn fire frequency?
Barnfires became a headline item on New Year’s Day 2016, when a suspected electrical fire killed 50,000 ducks at a farm in Racine, Quebec, that raised ducklings under contract for Brome Lake Ducks, in nearby Knowlton.
Eight weeks later another fire, in St. Camille, Quebec, killed 4,000 ducks, also being raised for Brome Lake Ducks.
Though barn fires are nothing new, either in Quebec or anywhere else, the coincidence that Brome Lake Ducks was involved in both fires occasioned notice.
Oldest poultry business in Canada
Founded in 1912, Brome Lake Ducks is believed to be the oldest continuously operating poultry business in Canada, and may be the best known.
Altogether, Brome Lake Ducks produces about 2.2 million Peking ducks per year for restaurants, exports, and the domestic retail trade, including a company-owned store in Montreal, while sponsoring and distributing t-shirts at many high-profile public events.
Ducks never see lake
The 38-year-old Tour du Lac Brome roadracing weekend alone annually puts Brome Lake Ducks t-shirts on several thousand runners from around the world.
Originally the ducks had access to Brome Lake, but the lake at the time supplied drinking water to the town of Knowlton. Accordingly, pollution concerns ended that arrangement more than 50 years ago. Few “Brome Lake” ducks today ever see either that lake or any other.
Nine barn fires in Ontario
Meanwhile, barn fires also began making news as never before in neighboring Ontario.
“Since the beginning of the year, barn fires have become a recurring theme on Ontario farms,” observed Diego Flammini of Farms.com on March 30, 2016, after a fire in Woolwich Township killed 45 cattle.
Flammini listed eight other winter 2016 barn fires, occurring in Puslinch, Mount Forest, Georgetown, Delaware, Flamborough, Parkhill, Stratford, and Brockton townships. The Ontario fires among them killed 2,500 pigs, 500 goats, 135 dairy cattle, and 56 horses.
The toll, however, appeared to be sadly normal. In March 2015 alone, by comparison, 134 cows burned to death in a barn fire northeast of Cornwall, Ontario; 125 animals, including 65 dairy cows, died in a barn fire near St. Fabien, Quebec; and 1,500 pigs died in a farrowing barn fire near Kola, Manitoba.
Canadians for Ethical Treatment of Farm Animals has tried for decades to convince the Canadian National Farm Animal Care Council to adopt fire safety standards, but the issue has yet to kindle with either regulators, insurers, or the public.
And, so far, despite the high-profile notice of the Ontario barn fires and fires involving Brome Lake Ducks contract growers, there is no hint that these fires will lead to improved barn fire safety standards, either.
(See also Barn fire safety: it’s personal; Agribusiness plays the bull fiddle while animals burn; Cage-free egg farm fire kills 65,000 hens, revives attention to lack of sprinklers in barns; and Fire safety standards sought for barns.)