Owner in pig farm inferno hails staff and firefighters
One of the owners of a Co Tyrone pig farm where almost 450 animals died in a blaze has paid tribute to his staff and firefighters, saying that without them the loss could have been even greater.
Hugh McReynolds, of SM Pigs in Strabane, described the loss of 36 sows and more than 400 piglets as "devastating".
It could be next week before the exact cause of the blaze is known as investigators from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service continue to examine the two farrowing houses gutted in the inferno.
Mr McReynolds, who was present at the site for the clean-up operation, said things could have been much worse.
He added: "We were very lucky the firefighters were on the scene and contained the fire to just two farming houses.
"Although I say just two farming houses, unfortunately that meant the loss of so many sows and piglets.
"I must give credit to our staff that they were quickly on the scene and took preventative action to make sure it didn't spread to any of the other farm buildings.
"It is absolutely devastating for us and the employees who look after the animals day and daily. This is the last thing they want to see when they come to work in the morning.
"Unfortunately, we will have to take stock now because there are a number of key issues in the marketplace at the moment, and this is just another setback that we will have to step back and take another look at."
A spokesman for the Fire Service said it was called to the scene shorty after 5.30am yesterday. He explained: "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.
"Five other units were saved by firefighters, and the fire was contained to two units."
The other buildings are thought to have housed around 300 sows and more than 1,000 piglets.
Animal rights organisation Peta has called for the pigs which survived the blaze to be allowed to live out the rest of their lives at a sanctuary.
Mimi Bekhechi, the group's UK director, said: "They've been traumatised enough and should be sent to a sanctuary to live out their lives in peace.
"(They should) not be put back into a system that treats them like commodities until they're big enough to be slaughtered for someone's bacon roll."