Far fewer animals died as a result of barn fires last year, according to De Volkskrant based on figures released Thursday by the Dutch Association of Insurers (VVN). However, it is still unclear whether this decline is linked to better fire safety for farmers.
The reported decline is huge. In 2020, nearly 109,000 animals died in barn fires, while last year just 6,915 animals died this way. The number of fires has also decreased from 54 to 35. Between 2012 and 2020, there were an average of 143,000 animal deaths from barn fires in the Netherlands.
The Dutch Security Office (OVV) was a key player in the low numbers. The OVV concluded last year that the government was not doing enough to prevent barn fires because there were virtually no laws and regulations to improve fire safety. Often barn fires are caused by electrical problems or faulty equipment.
Another key issue is that farmers generally lack fire extinguishers, according to the council. This problem is amplified because farms are often in remote areas, which takes longer to reach firefighters. Smoke from fires can cause suffocation and many animal deaths.
The Agricultural and Horticultural Organization (LTO) said many fire safety measures have been put in place in recent years. “We are pleased that increased prevention and increased awareness among farmers in 2021 has reduced the number of animal casualties,” the organization wrote in a press release.
Nevertheless, a spokesperson for animal welfare organization Wakker Dier warned that “it is far too early to be optimistic”. Instead, they recommended waiting before drawing conclusions. “We will have to wait and see if this decline will continue in the years to come.”
Additionally, the number of barn fires in which animals died was 11 last year. Although low, it is not unique, said Wakker spokesman Dier. “But that’s not exceptional, we saw the same number in 2012. Then 120,000 animals died.”
The OVV’s critical findings are crucial to keep in mind, according to Wakker Dier and Animal Rights. “The report is only a year old, so it’s unlikely farmers have made all the improvements to date,” an Animal Rights spokesperson said.