WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Farm Sanctuary issued a statement regarding the fire that killed more than 600 sows at a hog confinement facility in Marshall County, Iowa last week.

[Editor's note: According to the Associated Press, the fire at the Tamco Pork facility in Gilman south of Marshalltown April 1 was fanned by high winds and took more than four hours to put out. The news reports said at least 600 hogs were killed -- did not specify "sows."]

Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary's president and co-founder stated:
"The tragic deaths of so many pigs in the fire that swept through the Marshall County hog confinement facility is a testament to the folly of factory farming. Had these animals been given access to the outdoors, they would likely still be alive.

"Modern factory farms pack as many animals as possible into as small a space as possible. Often wallowing in their own waste, these animals are barely able to move. Breeding sows spend most of their lives squeezed inside crates that are barely larger than their own bodies. These 2-foot-wide metal enclosures, known as 'gestation crates,' keep the sows virtually immobilized for their entire lives. The animals cannot walk, turn around or engage in basic natural behaviors, and they suffer both physical and psychological disorders.

"As the fire raged, these trapped sows had no escape. Their deaths were horrible, but these animals suffered long before this fire at the hands of an industry that views and treats them as mere production units."

Gestation crates have been banned throughout most of Europe, as well as in the states of California, Florida, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon, yet they remain standard throughout Iowa, the nation's largest pork producing state.

Farm Sanctuary was instrumental in working on popular citizen ballot initiatives in Florida, Arizona and California that effectively banned the use of gestation crates and is currently working on legislation in Illinois that would end the use of gestation crates in that state.

In June 2008, the Iowa State Department of Agriculture invited Farm Sanctuary and a coalition of animal rescue groups to come to the aid of 68 pigs stranded on a levee in southeast Iowa as a result of flooding in the Mississippi river that destroyed several hog confinement facilities built on flood plains in the region. Today the rescued pigs are living out their lives in sanctuaries throughout the U.S., many residing at Farm Sanctuary's national headquarters in Watkins Glen, N.Y.

Farm Sanctuary is the nation's leading farm animal protection organization. Since incorporating in 1986, Farm Sanctuary has worked to expose and stop cruel practices of the "food animal" industry through research and investigations, legal and institutional reforms, public awareness projects, youth education, and direct rescue and refuge efforts. Farm Sanctuary shelters in Watkins Glen, N.Y., and Orland, Calif., provide lifelong care for hundreds of rescued animals, who have become ambassadors for farm animals everywhere by educating visitors about the realities of factory farming.

SOURCE: Farm Sanctuary via Business Wire.