Cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, and other farm animals are among the world’s most popular sources of food (meat and animal products). Obviously, the animal has to be slaughtered, skinned, and butchered to get meat.
Do these animals really deserve to go through a lot of pain and suffering in the process? Of course, they don’t deserve that at all, but they can depend on the slaughtering techniques and tools used in the process.
This is where the question of whether or not humane slaughtering is possible and what slaughterhouses or individual farmers can do to treat animals more humanely during slaughtering.
Read on as we explore this topic in more depth below.
What Is Humane Slaughtering?
Also known as humane killing, humane slaughtering is the term used to describe techniques and methods of animal slaughter that reduce pain and suffering for the animal being slaughtered. This is to say—to answer your question—that humane animal slaughter is indeed very much possible.
In the US, federal law actually exists to protect livestock from undue suffering during slaughter. This is the 1958 Humane Slaughter Act, which requires slaughtering plants and livestock farmhouses to abide by.
Why Is Humane Slaughtering Important?
Humane slaughtering is considered more ethical compared to slaughtering methods that put livestock through tons of agonizing pain and suffering. Moreover, killing is instant because the techniques used are fast and quite effective in putting the animal to sleep before being butchered.
Slaughtering businesses that use humane killing methods abide by the law and are more reputable in the industry. Since injuries and bruises to the animal being slaughtered are minimal, humanely slaughtered animals often provide higher quality meat.
Humane Ways of Slaughtering Animals
Some of the common humane techniques of slaughtering animals used by slaughterhouses are listed below. However, it is important to note that the most effective (and humane) method largely depends on the size of the animal.
1. Lethal Injection
Mostly performed by vet surgeons, lethal injection is whereby an animal is intravenously injected with a lethal dose of anesthetic drugs. The animal rapidly loses consciousness, and the heart stops beating in under one to a few minutes.
In most cases, however, the animal is not deemed fit for human consumption. This method is similar to the techniques used to put to sleep animals like rats, rabbits, or chickens in laboratory settings for scientific and research purposes.
Here, a close-range shot in the head using a free-bullet gun or pistol is used to put the animal down, killing it instantly. Common types of guns used here include .22 rifles and shotgun rifles. Since these firearms can be extremely dangerous, the procedure is usually carried out by an experienced vet or slaughterhouse expert.
3. Controlled Atmosphere Killing (CAK)
Mostly applicable in poultry slaughtering, controlled atmosphere stunning/killing involves releasing inert gasses like argon and nitrogen or carbon dioxide into the air circulating in a closed room/space. The birds inhale the gas and lack oxygen, causing them to choke and die an easy death.
4. Electrical Stunning
With electrical stunning, a special device is used to pass a relatively strong current through the head and into the brain of an animal. The current distorts the animal’s brain activity, rendering it unconscious.
The animal can then be slaughtered using the conventional way of cutting and bleeding but without any pain and suffering. The process is also called electronarcosis and is reversible in case you don’t really want to kill the animal but must keep it unconscious for other reasons!
5. Captive Bolt Stunning
Finally, captive bolt stunning is among the most popular methods available for humanely killing animals. Here, a device usually called a captive-bolt stunner is used to direct a mechanical blow into the animal’s skull, rendering it instantly unconscious.
Captive bolt guns or stunners come in a wide variety of sizes and designs, suitable for different types of larger animals, from cattle to sheep, camels, goats, and pigs.
This means that if you rear or often slaughter swine, a bolt gun for pigs would be an essential tool to have in your slaughtering arsenal. Strong enough, the force from the device usually causes damage to the brain’s nerves and blood vessels, making sure the animal won’t feel a thing when being slaughtered.
Indeed, humane slaughtering is important and pretty much possible with various techniques. The above piece has hopefully shed some light on various ways to stay ethical and abide by the law when it comes to slaughtering livestock.