Today as meat is bought neatly and hygienically packaged, we don’t often get to see the ghastly sight of blood flowing from the throat of an animal following a slaughter. Slaughter methods dictate that animals should be treated in humane manner and rendered unconscious before slaughter. They are usually rendered unconscious by stunning or electrocution. Animals are reared and slaughtered for food because majority of the people of all civilized countries eat meat. They eat meat because
- All traditional cookery has been based on the use of animal or fish products.
- Animal farming is one of the oldest traditional industry, employing a huge number of people who will lose their livelihood if all turn vegetarian suddenly.
- There is a misconception that vegetarian food is not tasty.
 Slaughter is Unpleasant
In the developed world more and more people are turning vegetarian because they feel it is morally wrong to kill and eat animals when it is possible to lead a healthier life on vegetarian diet. Other prime reasons for turning vegetarian are:
- The area required for growing high protein vegetables is much less than what is required for rearing animals for slaughter.
- Slaughter is an unpleasant experience to see and hear.
- The process of rearing animals are also felt to be cruel.
 Methods of Slaughter
The slaughter of farm animals is carried out by cutting the blood vessels in the neck, thereby causing exsanguinations. Prior to that stunning of the animals is done by electricity or percussion. Moslems and Jews use the halal and shechita methods involving cutting the neck without stunning the animals. Animals such as horses are shot at close quarters, while birds and rabbits are shot from a distance. Fish die of asphyxia once caught at sea by anglers and taken out of the water.
Before slaughter the animals should be
- Free from fear
- Free from pain
They should also be fasted before slaughter for 12-24 hours because:
- It makes evisceration easier.
- Bacteria migration from G.I. tract into meat is minimized.
They should be given free access to water because:
- It facilitates electrical stunning
- Blood removal becomes easier
- Pelt removal is easier
- Lean colors are brighter
 Humane Methods of Slaughter Act
The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) was passed in the United States more than 50 years ago to ensure that animals are rendered insensible to pain before they are killed. Here are some basic features:
- Extends and sets forth humane handling and stunning practices and procedures.
- Provides standards for maintenance and condition of livestock pens, driveways, etc.
- Calls for control of the use of electrical prods (limited to under 50 volts).
- Disabled animals cannot be dragged unless they are stunned.
- Animals must have access to water in all holding pens and if held for more than 24 hours, must have access to feed.
- Approves use of stunning methods, which must be applied to livestock before they can be shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast or cut.
 Halal System of Slaughter
Though animals are required to be stunned before they are killed, there is a religious exemption for Jewish and Muslim slaughterhouses on the grounds of their beliefs.
The halal and shechita methods do not stun the animals either by percussion or electrical current. A sharp knife is used to cut their carotid arteries and jugular veins rapidly after which they die by exsanguination.
This is an extremely painful method but is justified by those who practice it on the following grounds:
- It is sanctioned by their religions and holy books
- It is not painful when they are cut with a sharp knife
- The animal loses consciousness immediately
- This method may be cruel, but so are other methods
- Animals don’t have capability to suffer pain.
Birds are exempted from slaughter under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and have no legal protection. They are hung upside-down in shackles, electrocuted, cut with mechanical blades, and even immersed in scalding water, while being fully conscious.
 Slaughter of Fish
The slaughter of fish has received remarkably little attention. Fish die by asphyxia when they are taken out of the water, or when they are ground up in vacuum fishing. If they have been caught in nets, they may be exhausted from the attempts to free themselves. Sometimes fish are gutted while their hearts are still beating, and the beating is prolonged when they are put into ice. There is no reason to believe that fish do not feel pain, and suffer stress in the nets and during asphyxia.
 Did You Know
- In developing countries, one billion animals are killed for food every year. Out of this about 60% is killed without pre-stunning.
- In the United States, 660,000 animals are killed every hour every for their flesh.
- Animals can feel pain as much as we can.
- Many animals are kept without food and water for long stretches when transported to slaughter, killing millions on the way.
- In most plants, before the throats of live birds are machine slit, they are hung upside down on an overhead conveyor.
- The Vegetarian Conscience
- The Halal Slaughter Controversy
- Humane Slaughter of Livestock Regulations
- The Slaughter of Animals for Food
- Livestock slaughter procedures
- Slaughter-Dressing of Livestock
 Additonal Information
- Humane Slaughter
- See Video Electric Stunning.
- Refer to
Assessment of Muslim Method of Slaughter
See Slaughterhouse Cameras for slaughter pictures.
- Video Petition for Poultry.