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Humane Slaughter Act

Humane Slaughter Act
Great Seal of the United States
Long title An Act to establish the use of humane methods of slaughter of livestock as a policy of the United States, and for other purposes.
Nicknames Humane Methods of Slaughter Act
Enacted by the 85th United States Congress
Effective August 27, 1958
Public law 85-765
Statutes at Large 72 Stat. 862
Titles amended 7 U.S.C.: Agriculture
U.S.C. sections created 7 U.S.C. ch. 48 § 1901 et seq.
Legislative history

The Humane Slaughter Act, or the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act, (P.L. 85-765; 7 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.) is a United States federal law designed to decrease suffering of livestock during slaughter. It was approved on August 27, 1958.[1] The most notable of these requirements is the need to have an animal completely sedated and insensible to pain. This is to minimize the suffering to the point where the animal feels nothing at all, instead losing a consciousness from which it will never awaken. This differs from animal to animal as size increases and decreases. Larger animals such as bovine require a stronger method than chickens, for example. Bovine require electronarcosis or something equally potent, though electronarcosis remains a standard. The bovine would have a device placed on its head that, once activated, sends an electric charge that efficiently and safely stuns the animal.[2] Chickens, on the other hand, require much less current to be efficiently sedated and are given a run under electrically charged water. To ensure that these guidelines are met, The Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors at slaughtering plants are responsible for overseeing compliance, and have the authority to stop slaughter lines and order plant employees to take corrective actions. Although more than 168 million chickens (excluding broilers) and around 9 billion broiler chickens are killed for food in the United States yearly,[3] the Humane Slaughter Act specifically mentions only cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep and swine.[4]

Due to several reports of alleged non-compliance with these regulations and safety protocols, originating in the early 2000s, specifically late 2002 . This caused the FSIS to assign additional veterinarians to various district offices to allow monitoring and alleging significant non-compliance, FSIS assigned additional veterinarians to its district offices specifically to monitor slaughter and handling procedures and to report to their headquarters about any issues of compliance. This has been the case ever since, as Congress passed a bill in 2002, The 2002 farm bill, that requires a compliance report to be submitted annually. In 2003, the initiative increased further as, in the FY in 2003, Congress voted in another $5 million operation to the FSIS effort and increased the amount of compliance inspectors by 50. Language in the FY 2004 consolidated appropriations act directs FSIS to continue fulfilling that mandate, and the FY2005 budget request calls for another $5 million to be allocated for enforcement activities. Despite these requirements in place, reports from January 2004 GAO have noted that there is still alleged non-compliance. These were narrowed down to select states that issues of non-compliance still allegedly persist (GAO-04-247). Earlier concerns about humane treatment of non-ambulatory (downer) cattle at slaughter houses became irrelevant when FSIS issued regulations in January 2004 (69 FR 1892) prohibiting them from being slaughtered and inspected for use as human food.[5]


  • Content of the Humane Slaughter Act 1
  • History of the Humane Slaughter Act 2
    • 1958 2.1
    • 1978 2.2
    • 2002 2.3
    • Amendments to 1958 Act 2.4
  • Criticism of the HMSLA 3
    • Exclusionary policies 3.1
  • See also 4
  • Footnotes 5
  • External links 6

Content of the Humane Slaughter Act

7 U.S.C.A. § 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 Islamic and 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.

According to the law, animals should be stunned into unconsciousness prior to their slaughter to ensure a death with less suffering than in killing methods used earlier. The most common methods are electrocution and CO2 stunning for swine and

  • 2003 Report from the USDA
  • "Statute in Full at". Animal Legal and Historical Center. Michigan State University College of Law. 
  • Criticism of the HMSLA from an animal rights perspective
  • Criticism of the HMSLA from the HSUS
  • Blog of Former Slaughterhouse Worker, Virgil Butler
  • "Humane Farm Association USDA Petition, with Quotes from USDA Inspectors and Slaughterhouse Workers". HFA Campaign Against Factory Farming. Humane Farming Association. 
  • "Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter". Food Safety and Inspection Service. United States Department of Agriculture. 

External links

  1. ^ "To establish the use of humane methods of slaughter of livestock as a policy of the United States, and for other purposes." (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  2. ^ Anil, Haluk. "Religious slaughter: A current controversial animal welfare issue". Animal Frontiers. 
  3. ^ "Chickens: Lost, Sold for Slaughter, Price, and Value,by State, United States, and Puerto Rico, 2007" (PDF). May 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-09. 
  4. ^ "Humane Slaughter Act". Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  5. ^ CRS Report for Congress: Agriculture: A Glossary of Terms, Programs, and Laws, 2005 Edition - Order Code 97-905
  6. ^ Egyptian fatwa Committee, December 18th 1978, "The Opinions of the Ulema on the Permissibility of Stunning Animals", Organic Halal Meat.', 1978
  7. ^ McNeil Jr, Donald G. (2004-07-25). "The Nation: Gaining Ground; At Last, a Company Takes PETA Seriously". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 


See also

The HMSLA is criticized by animal rights advocates and the Humane Society of the United States for only including cattle, pigs, and sheep but not poultry, fish, rabbits or other animals routinely slaughtered for food. After a 2004 PETA undercover investigation which publicized abuse of chickens by employees of a West Virginia Pilgrim's Pride slaughterhouse that supplied chickens to KFC, PETA was joined by the Humane Society in calling for the Humane Slaughter Act to be expanded to include birds.[7]

Exclusionary policies

Criticism of the HMSLA

Date of Enactment Public Law Number U.S. Statute Citation U.S. Legislative Bill U.S. Presidential Administration
June 29, 1960 P.L. 86-547 74 Stat. 255 H.R. 12705 Dwight D. Eisenhower
October 10, 1978 P.L. 95-445 92 Stat. 1069 S. 3092 Jimmy E. Carter
May 13, 2002 P.L. 107-171 116 Stat. 134 H.R. 2646 George W. Bush

U.S. Congressional amendments and legislative authority pertaining to the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958.

Amendments to 1958 Act

On April 10, 2001, the Washington Post printed a front page story entitled "They Die Piece by Piece." This graphic article asserted that the United States Department of Agriculture was not appropriately enforcing the Humane Slaughter Act. In response, I am introducing this resolution that encourages the Secretary of Agriculture to fully enforce current law including the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958, as amended by the Federal Meat Inspection Act in 1978. The Humane Slaughter Act requires that animals be rendered insensible to pain before they are slaughtered. However, there are continual reports of alleged non-compliance. For example, the Washington Post has reported that "enforcement records, interviews, videos and worker affidavits describe repeated violations of the Humane Slaughter Act" and "the government took no action against a Texas beef company that was cited 22 times in 1998 for violations that include chopping hooves off live cattle".

When introducing the Resolution on the Senate floor, Senator Peter Fitzgerald said:

On May 13, 2002 President


In 1979, the HMSLA was updated and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors were given the authority to stop the slaughtering line when cruelty was observed. Officially, slaughtering was not to continue until said cruelty, whether as a result of equipment or of abuses by personnel, was corrected. However, the USDA eventually stopped authorizing USDA inspectors to stop the line, since doing so incurs considerable cost of time for the industry.


The first version of the HMSLA was passed in 1958. Public demand for the act was so great that when asked at a press conference whether he would sign it, President Animal Welfare Institute and The Humane Society of the United States supported its passage.


History of the Humane Slaughter Act

For religious sects to proceed in the slaughtering of animals under specifically related rituals, they must fall within compliance of the previously mentioned criterion. No religion is exempt and all animals due to be slaughtered must be rendered insensible before hand. Many religions find these regulations to fall within their own guidelines as appropriate. The two most common religious slaughter methods in the United States are the method of kosher, of the Jewish faith and the method of Halal, of the Muslim faith. While all require that the animal be killed through ritual slaughter, proponents of certain religious-based slaughter methods claim that the severing of the animal's carotid arteries, jugular veins and vagus nerve renders the animal unconscious as effectively than most other methods, but has yet to be proven.

Frequent on-site monitoring is necessary, as is the employment of skilled and well-trained personnel. An animal is considered properly stunned when there is no "righting reflex"; that is, the animal must not try to stand up and right itself. Only then can it be considered fully unconscious. It can then proceed down the line, where works in slaughterhouses can being the slaughtering of the specified livestock animal. [6]

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