Our thoughts are with North Carolina residents today as they brace for the storm, and especially with those who had to leave their homes in the coastal flood region to an uncertain fate. Sadly, this region is also home to the largest concentration of the state’s estimated 9 million pigs, 830.8 million chickens raised for meat, and 32.5 million turkeys — most confined and caged without any hope of evacuation. These animals are far too often the forgotten victims of natural disasters since most reports on the agricultural damage focus almost exclusively on economic losses.

An aerial view of a factory farm and manure lagoons in North Carolina.

We at Farm Sanctuary saw this first-hand in the days after Hurricane Katrina when we arrived on the scene in rural Mississippi. There, we faced demolished warehouses confining tens of thousands of chickens, fields littered with dead birds alongside living ones struggling to survive, and mass graves. We were able to rescue 725 chickens during that effort, but millions more had already perished.

Rescuers work to pull desperate birds from a pit in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

As the residents of North Carolina know far too well, Florence is not the first hurricane to threaten havoc on the state’s floodplains. Hurricane Matthew killed thousands of factory farmed animals in 2016, and 1999’s Hurricane Floyd remains infamous for floods that contributed to deaths of 57 humans along with rivers teeming with corpses of bloated pigs and chickens and their manure. Learn more about the magnitude of this threat based on the state of factory farming in North Carolina by visiting FarmSanctuary.org/neighbors.