In recent years, a string of explosions and fires that have decimated food processing facilities has led to rampant speculation that there is a nefarious plan underway to intentionally cause food shortages.
Although there has been no credible evidence to support such theories and experts say fires are relatively common at these factories, some skeptics revisited the topic after a massive explosion at a dairy farm in Dimmitt, Texas this week.
One farm worker was seriously injured in the blast and about 18,000 cows were killed, which makes it the largest loss of cattle in any event on record.
In a statement on the matter, the Animal Welfare Institute said that it “is the deadliest barn fire or fire on a farming facility involving cattle” that it has seen since it began tracking such statistics about a decade ago.
“In the past, we’ve seen that this has been a huge issue, particularly for the poultry industry,” the group added. “So when we have such high mortality, that’s usually in chicken fires.”
Although it is not uncommon for as many as hundreds of thousands of chickens to perish in a blaze, incidents involving cows are usually limited to a few hundred deaths. Since 2013, the organization has documented about 6.5 million animal deaths in fires.
Local authorities did not immediately reveal the cause of the Southfork Dairy Farm blast, but the AWI indicated that most of the fires it has documented were caused by heating systems.
Castro County Sheriff Sal Rivera said that early evidence pointed to faulty equipment that resulted in overheated gas that ultimately exploded, explaining: “The speculation was probably what they call a honey badger, which is a vacuum that sucks the manure and water out, and possibly that it got overheated and probably the methane and things like that ignited and spread out and exploded and the fire.”
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller confirmed that this incident was the largest mass death of cattle in the state’s history and called on authorities to release the findings publicly after the ongoing investigation is concluded.
“There are lessons to be learned and the impact of this fire may influence the immediate area and the industry itself,” he said. “Once we know the cause and the facts surrounding this tragedy, we will make sure the public is fully informed — so tragedies like this can be avoided in the future.”