The director of UK animal welfare charity PETA has called for the pigs which were rescued from the Strabane farm fire to be sent to a sanctuary.
Mimi Bekhechi said the 160 piglets and 16 sows rescued from the blaze on Thursday would have been left “traumatised” and should not be sent for slaughter.
Ms Bekheci was speaking after the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service confirmed that over 450 pigs and piglets were killed in the blaze at the Melmount Road farm.
She said: “There can’t be anything much more frightening or painful than being burned alive.
“Pigs are highly sensitive and intelligent animals who are often compared to dogs for their sociable, friendly and loyal nature, and they would have been fully aware of the danger as flames and smoke engulfed their crowded sheds.
“The piglets who managed to survive watched their mothers and friends burn. They heard their terrified cries for help.
They’ve been traumatised enough and should be sent to a sanctuary to live out their lives in peace, not put back into a system that treats them like commodities until they’re big enough to be slaughtered for someone’s bacon roll.PETA UK Director Mimi Bekhechi
Ms Bekhechi added: “They’ve been traumatised enough and should be sent to a sanctuary to live out their lives in peace, not put back into a system that treats them like commodities until they’re big enough to be slaughtered for someone’s bacon roll.”
The Fire Service confirmed that they spent over seven hours tackling the blaze and securing the scene yesterday.
A spokesman said: “Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service received a call at 5.38am to a report of a fire at a shed at the Melmount Road, Strabane area.
“Six Fire Appliances from Strabane, Newtownstewart and Castlederg Fire Stations including a Command Support Unit were deployed to the scene.
“Firefighters managed to rescue 16 sows and 160 piglets from one of the two units damaged during the incident. 5 other units were saved by Firefighters, as the fire was contained to two units.
“Tragically, it is believed that 33 sows and around 434 piglets perished during the incident. The incident finished at 1.19pm and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.”
SDLP MLA for West Tyrone, Agriculture spokesman Joe Byrne, expressed his sympathy with the farmer.
He said: “This is devastating news for the farmer. To have lost more than 400 animals in a fire is horrifying.
“It is a huge loss to the individual but also to the entire farming enterprise. A significant farm like this makes a major contribution to the local economy.”