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Stranded, Starving, and Suffering: Farm Animals in the Wake of Katrina


Surviving chickens huddle in the corner of the remains of a chicken coop on the Eidson poultry farm near Roopville, Ga., on Tuesday. The farm was ravaged by a tornado from Hurricane Katrina as it tore through Carroll County, Ga. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)

The camera’s aerial view panned across ravaged sheds, torn apart by the tornado spawned by Hurricane Katrina. Slowly, the camera zoomed in, spotlighting broiler chickens dotting the debris-covered ground, some still alive, many dead. More than a dozen workers hastily grabbed three or four live birds at a time and threw them into transport carriers.

Carroll County, Georgia, was struck by a confirmed tornado on Monday afternoon, leveling at least 30 chicken sheds and killing an estimated 375,000 birds. Economic losses are thought to total $5 million for that county alone in the top broiler-producing state in the country.

As stories from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi roll in, the toll exacted on farm animals by Hurricane Katrina grows increasingly higher. Cattle raised for beef are stranded in southern Louisiana, surrounded by salt water and running out of food. The roofs on up to 30 chicken sheds in Alabama were blown off by the high winds, and an estimated 600,000 birds are left to bear the severe weather. Mississippi, ranked fourth in the nation in chicken meat production, had hundreds of chicken sheds, each confining thousands of birds, damaged by the storms.

Factory Farming Exacerbates Hurricane's Impact

Indeed, with hurricanes and tornados come fierce winds, power outages, water shortages, and buildings housing thousands—if not hundreds of thousands—of animals being ripped apart and even collapsing on those captive inside.

“We will not forget the millions of farm animals devastated by this natural disaster. Their deaths by crushing buildings, dehydration, or injury are not merely ‘economic losses.’ As our disaster rescue teams move further into the region, we will do whatever we can to help end the suffering of those still languishing,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO.

“The destruction caused by Katrina has left countless farm animals trapped in filthy pens, stalls, cages, and sheds without food or water,” said Miyun Park, director of Farm Animal Welfare for The HSUS. “Just because these animals are being raised for food doesn’t mean they should not be humanely cared for.”

Had Hurricane Katrina and her wrath hit the region 60 years ago, the story would have been much different. Small farms have been displaced by larger industrialized animal factories, in which more and more animals are crammed into smaller spaces. Automated waterers, feeders, ventilation systems, and, with egg-laying hens, egg collection belts come to a grinding halt when utilities fall prey to storms and back-up generators aren’t enough. “When power systems fail, animals in intensive confinement systems are particularly vulnerable, put at risk by stifling summer heat, toxic ammonia, and limited or inaccessible food and water,” added Park.

In Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, animal agriculture is big business. Using each state’s annual production figures, HSUS estimates that the current population of cows, pigs, chickens, and other farm animals – prior to the arrival of Katrina - was a staggering 635 million animals.

“In 1999, when Hurricane Floyd hit North Carolina, flood waters washed out pig factory farm manure lagoons, choking coastal rivers with waste and tens of thousands of rotting hog carcasses. The waste reportedly created a 350-square-mile dead zone in our nation’s second-largest estuary, creating a massive fish kill. In addition to the pigs killed by the hurricane, about 2 million chickens and 700,000 turkeys were drowned in the aftermath,” said Michael Greger, M.D., director of public health and animal agriculture of The HSUS Farm Animal Welfare Section.

For a sample copy of The Ark and all membership details, except CCA-USA, and for questions, comments and submissions, please contact: Deborah Jones at Catholic Concern for Animals cca@catholic-animals.org

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