Bringing Meat to the Table: Humane Slaughter Laws
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Bringing Meat to the Table: Humane Slaughter Laws

Federal law prohibits inhumane practices in the slaughter of livestock. The Code of Federal Regulation Title 9 defines humane slaughter of livestock which is enforced by USDA inspectors

Humane treatment of farm animals is the goal of the Humane slaugter laws adopted by the United States.

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is dedicated to promoting the humane treatment of farm animals. They have a program whereby farmers who meet their standards of humane treatment can have the AWI label, Animal Welfare Approved. The Humane Farm Animal Care organization provides a Certified Humane Raised and Handled label and a third organization, The American Humane Association provides a Free-Farm Certified label. These labels are reserved for small family farms and are not available to large agribusiness farms that raise meat.

Included in your consideration when buying beef is whether the processing plant is in violation of federal laws regarding the humane slaughter of livestock.

Laws regarding the slaughter of livestock are covered under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Title 7 of the US Code, Chapter 48, Sections 1901 - 1907. This act is intended to prevent needless suffering to livestock during transportation and the process of slaughter.

The Code of Federal Regulation Title 9 Part 313 sets forth the details of how humane slaughter is to be carried out. It is this regulation that is used by the USDA inspectors when inspecting an operation to ensure humane treatment of farm animals.

A brief summary of the regulation and what it includes:

  • Livestock pens, driveways and ramps have to be maintained and in good repair so that the animals will not be injured. The intent is that the animal will not be injured by loose boards, slippery ramps, splintered planking and unnecessary openings
  • Injured and sick animals must be removed to a covered and protected location. Disabled animals cannot be drug if they are conscious but must be moved with suitable equipment that does not cause additional suffering.
  • The driveway (where the cattle are driven from the transport to the pens) shall be arranged so that sharp turns and sharp corners and direction reversals are avoided.
  • Animals cannot be prodded with sharp objects that would cause unnecessary pain and the AC volts of prods cannot exceed 50 volts. Furthermore they cannot be driven faster than normal walking speed.
  • Animals must have access to water in all holding pens and access to feed if held more than 24 hours. I they are held overnight they must have sufficient space to lie down.
  • Animals must be stunned prior to being shackled, hoisted, thrown, or cut. This can be done with a stunning bolt, gunshot or by driving them through a carbon dioxide chamber, which essentially puts them into surgical anesthesia. Alternate kosher methods of slaughter are allowed as well but are also under the authority of the USDA inspector.

Any violations to the humane slaughter laws that are observed by the inspector is tagged as U.S Rejected.

Compliance and enforcement of the federal laws is not always consistent and the federal laws do not cover the majority of other operations like feedlot conditions and farming and ranching practices. Many of the day to day regulations and ordinances covering humane treatment of farm animals and raising livestock are regulated by states and counties.

These laws have been created because most would agree that humane treatment of animals is a moral obligation and that to cause undue and unnecessary pain to animals is inexcusable. If one can at least be aware that options are available then we have taken a step in the right direction to hold accountable those who violate the laws of humane treatment of farm animals.

In a previous article regarding the methods used to grow beef I covered some of the choices available to the individual when selecting which kind of beef to purchase.

For a review of vegetarian sausage see my article: Vegetarian Sausage Review: MorningStar Farms Original Sausage Patties

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Comments (12)

I endorse laws towards humane treatment for animals during slaughter!

Ranked #11 in Farm Animals

Yes it really is important to our humanity.

Really important article. I haven't eaten meat for 30years but it's not because I think it's cruel, it's just a life choice however I do still expect the laws to tighten up on the laws of transporting live animals and to get as many free range as possible. I have even stopped buying cheaper cheese because it comes from battery cows or cows that are kept in small pens at least. Very good article for bring awareness.

Thanks Lisa! Now I think of how animals are treated and fed and slaughtered rather than "grown and harvested". It's amazing how our language can obscure reality isn't it.

It sure is, I started worrying about this when I was 9years old. I went on to work at kennels where we also had chickens and rabbits for meat, plucked a few and cooked the inside bits of both for the dogs but I always put the baby chicks and bunnies out in runs together, so they at least had some life before slaughter. I went on to work as a veterinary nurse saving animals. Ironic really.

Excellent article. I'm retweeting this one! Very important people realize what they eat and how it was treated prior to being their plate! Thanks for this.

This is really good information. I keep sheep, but they are pets, we also have free range hens for eggs, but again, the birds are kept as pets... if people could see how other farmers keep animals -especially in factory farms, I think they would be very alarmed. You should point out at the begining of your article that it is written to Americans, and the information is not always true for the rest of the world.

Ranked #11 in Farm Animals

Are you sure you want to impugn Americans before doing your research? Canada has factory farms too and I did not find that Canada has Federal humane transport and slaughter laws as we do in the US. I did a quick search on Canada and found some appalling practices and complaints within their livestock industry too. I am surprised that you think Americans are the only ones who are guilty of this. You can research this for yourself. There are factory farms in every industrialized country that I googled. There are also small family farms in the US that follow humane treatment practices for both raising and slaughtering. You should advocate for humane slaughter laws in your country.

Judith.. I think you misunderstood. I never said Canada, or other countries, are not cruel. But because you mention laws, its important to state where the laws you mention are in reference too, that way a person (perhaps somebody using this for research) knows if the laws are for their area or not. Anyone who reads through will realize its for USA, but I am only suggesting you clarify this at the begining... The UK actually is one of the better nations for care for animals before slaughter.. and you would be amazed at how well Japan cares for its horses before slaughter! I am not pointing fingers at the USA saying they are more cruel, sorry for the misunderstanding, I am only suggesting you clarify to readers that your legal information is true in the USA and other nations have their own laws and standards. I totally do advocate for humane slaughter laws here.. I was not trying to debate the laws with my comment, nor did I say that Canada was any better..

Ranked #11 in Farm Animals

Thanks you for clarifying your remarks Brenda - I am sorry that I was immediately defensive. I figured that my citation of US code was clear. I appreciate your comments.

A well written article on Humane Slaughter Laws. I find it amusing keeping up with regulations if we still find it hard to co exist with our own species. Time after time, psychos will wreak havoc in our midst. But of course, despite our futile efforts we must keep up with our sense of morality as righteous human beings.

Ranked #11 in Farm Animals

Hear hear! I agree deep blue.