Humane Slaughter Act Law and Legal Definition

The Humane Slaughter Act (“Act”) is a federal law passed in 1958 and can be found at 7 USCS § 1901 et seq. According to the Act, the slaughtering of livestock and the handling of livestock in connection with slaughter must be carried out only by humane methods [7 USCS § 1901]. Humane methods of slaughter prevent needless suffering of the animal, and creates safer and better working conditions for persons engaged in the slaughtering industry. It also results in improvement of products and economies in slaughtering operations; and help in bringing about an orderly flow of livestock and livestock products in interstate and foreign commerce.

The Secretary is responsible for research and development of the humane methods of slaughter. The Act states that animals should be stunned into unconsciousness before their slaughter to ensure a quick and relatively painless death. Some common methods of stunning are: captive bolt stunning for cattle, sheep, and goats; and electrocution and C02 stunning for swine. Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors at slaughtering plants are responsible for overseeing the slaughtering of animals. They have the authority to stop slaughter lines until correct methods of slaughter are used.

Humane methods of slaughtering are specifically stated in 7 USCS § 1902. The section reads as follows:

7 USCS § 1902. Humane methods:

No method of slaughtering or handling in connection with slaughtering shall be deemed to comply with the public policy of the United States unless it is humane. Either of the following two methods of slaughtering and handling are hereby found to be humane:

(a) in the case of cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep, swine, and other livestock, all animals are rendered insensible to pain by a single blow or gunshot or an electrical, chemical or other means that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut; or

(b) by slaughtering in accordance with the ritual requirements of the Jewish faith or any other religious faith that prescribes a method of slaughter whereby the animal suffers loss of consciousness by anemia of the brain caused by the simultaneous and instantaneous severance of the carotid arteries with a sharp instrument and handling in connection with such slaughtering.