top of page

Humane Animal Slaughter

Humane Slaughter: ‘when an animal is either killed instantly or rendered insensible until death ensues, without pain, suffering or distress’.


Animal slaughter is a difficult topic of conversation, vegans hate it, vegetarians feel that they play no part in it, that eggs and dairy are not involved, meat eaters see it as a necessary and natural part of how food works. Everyone seems to understand, though, that animal slaughter often involves inhumane and unethical practices, another point to make is that the animals don't want to die.

"The dragging of disabled animals and other animals unable to move, while conscious, is prohibited. Stunned animals may, however, be dragged."


Humane animal slaughter is the process of killing animals in a way that minimises their pain and suffering. It is based on the principle of treating animals with respect and dignity, while killing them for food. It does seem that everything comes back to what humans want, killing animals "humanely" makes the meat taste better because the animal is less stressed when it dies. To humanely kill an animal various stunning methods are used that leave the animal unconscious before the killing. These include the use of gas to knock animals out from the lack of oxygen, electrical stunning is hanging animals by their feet on a shackle line and passing their heads though electrified water, electrocuting them into unconsciousness, mechanical stunning can be done with a bolt gun to the head.

"Your Animal Welfare Officer must record all action they take to improve animal welfare at your slaughterhouse."


For any of these methods to be considered successful, and the treatment of the animal humane, the animal must be completely comatose and unaware of their surroundings before the slaughter takes place. The stunning must be quick, painless and achieved in one attempt. If a cow is shot in the head multiple times with a bolt gun before being rendered unconscious the method is not humane, according to the rules.

Animals that aren't killed immediately after delivery to the slaughterhouse must be kept in pens with access to food and water if they are to remain at the slaughterhouse for a long period of time. The amount of time that must pass before animals are given water and food depends on the regulation of individual countries. This is all part of treating the animals in a humane way, animals being transported in over packed trucks with no access to food or water or even fresh air is not.

The UK government has several documents available for people that work in animal agriculture, many of them are guidance, not regulations, and include instructions on unloading and inspecting animals, shackle lines and the amount of time a bird, in the case of chickens and other poultry, can spend hung by it's feet when conscious. However, even though the guidelines are not law, slaughterhouses, farms, meat processing plants and other establishments involved in animal agriculture are inspected to ensure that set standards are maintained. It must be understood, though, that humane slaughter is not about putting animals to sleep peacefully, the goal is to minimise, not completely remove, the pain and suffering of animals during the process of being killed for meat. It is well understood that the pain, suffering and distress are a part of the process.

"Your equipment for restraining animals must:

  • allow you to stun or kill an animal effectively

  • prevent injury or cuts to animals

  • minimise struggling and vocalisation

  • minimise the time an animal’s restrained"


The idea of humane slaughter is that animals, bred and reared for meat, should be treated with respect and dignity in within the context of their killing. Animals are to be treated as sentient beings, they should be treated as individuals, capable of pain, distress, discomfort, but they should also be understood to be capable of happiness, pleasure and joy. Humane slaughter does not take into account, or even consider, that animals do not want to die, they do not want to give up their lives for a meal, they do not want to live on farms, to be fed what humans decide they should eat, to be put into trucks and taken to a factory that will kill them "humanely".

"Every year in the UK approximately 2.6 million cattle, 10 million pigs, 14.5 million sheep and lambs, 80 million fish and 950 million birds are slaughtered for human consumption. Animals should always be reared, transported and slaughtered humanely."

The Humane Slaughter Society



bottom of page