Animal slaughter

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Stunning a cow with a captive bolt pistol

Animal slaughter is the killing of animals, usually referring to killing domestic livestock. In general, the animals would be killed for food, however, they might also be slaughterd for other reasons such as being diseased and unsuitable for consumption.

The animals most commonly slaughtered for food are cattle and water buffalo for beef and veal, sheep and lambs for lamb and mutton, goats for goat meat, pigs for pork and ham, deer for venison, horses for horse meat, poultry (mainly chickens, turkeys and ducks) and increasingly, fish in the aquaculture industry (fish farming).

Methods[edit]

Many countries have adopted the principle of a two-stage process for the non-ritual slaughter of animals. This is to ensure a rapid death with minimal suffering. The first stage of the process, usually called stunning, renders the animal unconscious, but not necessarily dead. In the second stage, the animal is killed. Countries differ in the methods which have been legalised for different species or different ages.

Stunning[edit]

Various methods are used to render an animal unconscious during animal slaughter.

Electrical (stunning or slaughtering with electric current)
This method is used for swine, sheep, calves, cattle, and goats. The current is applied either across the brain or the heart to render the animal unconscious before being killed.
Gaseous(Carbon dioxide)
This method can be used for sheep, calves and swine. The animal is asphyxiated by the use of CO2 gas before being killed. In several countries, CO2 stunning is mainly used on pigs. A number of pigs enter a chamber which is then sealed and filled with 80% to 90% CO2 in air. The pigs lose consciousness within 13 to 30 seconds. Research has produced conflicting results with some showing pigs tolerate CO2 stunning and others showing they do not.[1][2][3]
Gaseous (Inert gas asphyxiation)
Various concentrations of argon and nitrogen have been used to induce unconsciousness, often in conjunction with CO2. Domestic turkeys are averse to high concentrations of CO2 (72% CO2 in air) but not low concentrations (a mixture of 30% CO2 and 60% argon in air with 3% residual oxygen).[4]
Mechanical (Captive bolt pistol)
This method can be used for sheep, swine, goats, calves, cattle, horses, mules, and other equines. A captive bolt pistol is applied to the head of the animal to quickly render them unconscious before being killed. There are three types of captive bolt pistols, penetrating, non-penetrating and free bolt. The use of penetrating captive bolts has, largely, been discontinued in commercial situations to minimize the risk of transmission of disease when parts of the brain enter the bloodstream.
A hen being killed by slitting its throat with a meat cleaver in Hainan, China
Mechanical (gunshot/free bullet)
This method can be used for cattle, calves, sheep, swine, goats, horses, mules, and other equines. A conventional firearm is used to fire a bullet into the brain of the animal to render the animal quickly unconscious (and presumably dead). A second method may be used (e.g. drug administration) to ensure the animal is dead.

Killing[edit]

Exanguination
The animal either has its throat cut or has a chest stick inserted cutting close to the heart. In both these methods, main veins and/or arteries are cut and allowed to bleed.[5][6]

National laws[edit]

Canada[edit]

In Canada, the handling and slaughter of food animals is a shared responsibility of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), industry, stakeholders, transporters, operators and every person who handles live animals. Canadian law requires that all federally registered slaughter establishments ensure that all species of food animals are handled and slaughtered humanely. The CFIA verifies that federal slaughter establishments are compliant with the Meat Inspection Regulations. The CFIA's humane slaughter requirements take effect when the animals arrive at the federally registered slaughter establishment. Industry is required to comply with the Meat Inspection Regulations for all animals under their care. The Meat Inspection Regulations define the conditions for the humane slaughter of all species of food animals in federally registered establishments. Some of the provisions contained in the regulations include:

  • guidelines and procedures for the proper unloading, holding and movement of animals in slaughter facilities
  • requirements for the segregation and handling of sick or injured animals
  • requirements for the humane slaughter of food animals[7]

United Kingdom[edit]

Animal slaughter in the UK is governed under both its own laws and EU law regarding slaughter. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is the main governing body responsible for legislation and codes of practice covering animal slaughter in the UK.

In the UK the methods of slaughter are largely the same as those used in the United States with some differences. The use of captive bolt equipment and electrical stunning are approved methods of stunning sheep, goats, cattle and calves for consumption[6]- with the use of gas reserved for swine.[8] Free bullet slaughter (i.e. using a firearm) is not an accepted method in the United Kingdom if the animal is intended for consumption.[citation needed]

United States[edit]

In the United States, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) specifies the approved methods of livestock slaughter:[9]

Each of these methods is outlined in detail, and the regulations require that inspectors identify operations which cause "undue" "excitement and discomfort" of animals.

In 1958, the law that is enforced today by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) was passed as the Humane Slaughter Act of 1978. This Act requires the proper treatment and humane handling of all food animals slaughtered in USDA inspected slaughter plants. It does not apply to chickens or other birds.[10]

Religious laws for ritual slaughter[edit]

Ritual slaughter of animals is also used for food production. Such slaughter is governed by various laws, most notably, Shechita and Dhabihah.

Shechita - Jewish laws of slaughtering animals[edit]

Animal slaughter in Judaism deals with their religious law of Shechita. The animal must be considered kosher for it to be slaughtered and consumed. The basic law of the Shechita process requires the rapid uninterrupted severance of major vital organs and vessels to. This produces a quick drop in blood pressure in the brain. This abrupt loss of pressure results in the rapid and irreversible cessation of consciousness and sensibility to pain.[11]

Dhabihah - Islamic law of slaughtering animals[edit]

Animal slaughtering in Islam is in accordance with the Qur’an. To slaughter an animal is to cause it to pass from a living state to a dead state. For the meat to be lawful according to Islam, it must come from an animal which is a member of a lawful species and it must be ritually slaughtered,, i.e. according to the Law, or the sole code recognized by the group as legitimate. There are three methods of killing: slitting the throat (dabh), plunging the knife into the dimple over the breast bone (nahr), and killing in some other way ('aqr). The slaughter person must say the name of God (bismillah), before slaughtering the animal.[12]

Controversy[edit]

There has been a lot of controversy and speculation on the topic of animal slaughtering. Universally agreed correct religious slaughter rules and practices are still under debate, and certification and labeling of meat products remain as other issues to be addressed. Due to this, moves to minimize welfare problems are under way to improve slaughter practices by providing more training and new regulations. There are differences between conventional and religious slaughter practices. Although both methods have been subjected to criticism on animal welfare grounds, religious slaughter has received much recent attention. Current concerns about religious slaughter focus on stress of pre-slaughter handling using certain devices, pain and distress that may be felt during and after neck cutting, as well as prolonged times to loss of brain function and death if stunning is not applied.[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "When is carbon dioxide stunning used in abattoirs?". RSPCA. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  2. ^ Jong, E.C., Barnett, J.L. and Hemsworth, P.H., (2000). The aversiveness of carbon dioxide stunning in pigs and a comparison of the CO2 stunner crate vs. the V-restrainer. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 67: 67-76
  3. ^ Raj, A.B.M. and Gregory, N.G., (1995). Welfare implications of the gas stunning of pigs 1. Determination of aversion to the initial inhalation of carbon dioxide or argon. Animal Welfare, 4: 273-280
  4. ^ Raj, M., (1999). Aversive reactions of turkeys to argon, carbon dioxide and a mixture of carbon dioxide and argon. Veterinary Record, 138:592-593 DOI:10.1136/vr.138.24.592
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ a b "Slaughter Red". Hsa.org.uk. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  7. ^ "Humane Handling and Slaughter of Food Animals in Canada". Canadian Food Inspection Agency. 
  8. ^ "Pig Slaughter". Hsa.org.uk. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  9. ^ "Humane Slaughter of Livestock Regulations (National Citation: 9 C.F.R. 313.1 - 90)". Animal Legal and Historical Center (regulations from USDA). 2007. 
  10. ^ "Humane Methods of Slaughter Act". National Agricultural Library. 
  11. ^ Jones, Sam. "Halal, shechita and the politics of animal slaughter". The Guardian. 
  12. ^ Benkheira, Mohammed (2000). "Artificial death, canonical death: Ritual slaughter in Islam.". Food and Foodways. 4 8 (4): 227–252. 
  13. ^ Anil, Haluk. "Religious slaughter: A current controversial animal welfare issue". Animal Frontiers. 

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