The Truth About Humane Slaughter

In today’s world, the term “humane slaughter” has become a widely accepted part of the carnist vocabulary, often used to ease the moral discomfort associated with the killing of animals for food. However, this term is a euphemistic oxymoron that obscures the harsh and brutal reality of taking a life in a cold, calculated, and industrialized manner. This article delves into the grim truth behind the concept of humane slaughter, challenging the notion that there can be a compassionate or benevolent way to end the life of a sentient being.

The article begins by exploring the pervasive nature of human-induced death among animals, whether in the wild or under human care. It highlights the stark reality that most non-human animals under human control, including beloved pets, ultimately face death at human hands, often under the guise of euphemisms like “put down” or “euthanasia.” While these terms may be used to soften the emotional blow, they still signify the act of killing.

The narrative then shifts to the industrialized slaughter of animals for food, exposing the mechanical, detached, and often cruel processes that occur in slaughterhouses worldwide. Despite claims of humane practices, the article argues that such facilities are inherently inhumane, driven by production efficiency rather than animal welfare. It scrutinizes the various methods of slaughter, from stunning to throat-cutting, revealing the suffering and fear endured by animals in these “death factories.”

Furthermore, the article examines the controversial topic of religious slaughter, questioning whether any method of killing can truly be considered humane. It underscores the inconsistencies and ethical dilemmas surrounding the use of stunning and other techniques, ultimately concluding that the concept of humane slaughter is a misleading and self-serving construct.

By deconstructing the term “humane” and its association with human superiority, the article challenges readers to reconsider the ethical implications of animal slaughter and the ideologies that sustain it. It calls into question the moral justifications for killing animals for food and urges a reevaluation of our relationship with other sentient beings.

In essence, “The Reality of Humane Slaughter” seeks to dismantle the comforting illusions surrounding the killing of animals, exposing the inherent cruelty and suffering involved. It invites readers to confront the uncomfortable truths and consider a more compassionate and ethical approach to our treatment of animals.
**Introduction: The Reality of Humane Slaughter**

In today’s world, the term “humane slaughter” has become a widely accepted part of the carnist ‍vocabulary, often ​used to ease the moral discomfort associated‍ with⁢ the killing of animals for food. However, this term is a euphemistic oxymoron that⁢ obscures⁣ the harsh and brutal reality of taking a life in a cold, calculated, and industrialized manner. This article​ delves into the grim truth behind the concept of humane slaughter, challenging the notion that there can be a compassionate or benevolent ‍way to end the ⁢life of a⁢ sentient being.

The article begins by exploring the pervasive⁣ nature⁢ of human-induced death among animals, whether in the wild or under human care. It highlights the ⁢stark reality that most non-human animals under ⁤human control, including beloved pets, ultimately face‌ death at human hands, often under the guise of euphemisms like “put down” or “euthanasia.” While these terms may be used to soften the ⁣emotional blow, they still signify the act of killing.

The narrative then shifts to the industrialized slaughter of​ animals for food, exposing the mechanical, detached, and often cruel processes that occur in slaughterhouses worldwide. Despite claims of ‍humane ​practices, the article argues that such‍ facilities are inherently inhumane, driven by production efficiency rather than animal welfare. It scrutinizes the various methods of slaughter, from stunning to‍ throat-cutting,⁢ revealing the suffering and fear endured by animals in these “death factories.”

Furthermore, the article​ examines the controversial topic of ⁢religious ​slaughter, questioning⁤ whether any method of killing can truly be considered humane. It ​underscores the inconsistencies and ethical dilemmas surrounding the use of ​stunning and other techniques, ultimately concluding that the ⁣concept ‌of humane slaughter is ‍a misleading⁢ and self-serving ‌construct.

By ‌deconstructing the ⁣term “humane” and ⁢its association⁤ with human ⁣superiority, the ‍article challenges readers to reconsider the ethical ⁤implications ⁤of animal slaughter and the​ ideologies that sustain it. It calls into question ⁢the ‍moral justifications for killing animals for food and urges a reevaluation of our ‍relationship⁢ with other sentient beings.

In essence, “The ‍Reality of Humane Slaughter” seeks to dismantle the comforting illusions surrounding the killing of animals, exposing the inherent cruelty and⁤ suffering involved. It invites readers to confront ⁣the uncomfortable truths and consider a more compassionate‍ and ethical approach to our treatment of ‌animals.

The term “Humane Slaughter” is part of the vocabulary of today’s carnist world, but the truth is that it is a euphemistic oxymoron aimed at hiding the gruesome reality of taking someone’s life in a cold, organised, and calculated way.

If all animals voted to choose a word for the most descriptive term for our species, the term “killer” would probably win. The most common thing a non-human animal will experience when meeting a human being is death. Although not all animals in the wild will encounter humans who are hunters, shooters, or fishers trying to kill them with all sorts of devices specifically designed to capture and kill, the immense majority of non-human animals “under the care” of humans (being kept captive or in a companionship scenario) will end up being killed by a human.

Even companion dogs and cats will experience this when they get too old or suffer an incurable disease. In such cases, we will use the euphemism “put down” to help us cope with it, but, in all honesty, it’s just another word for killing. It may be done for the non-human animals’ wellbeing, and it may be done in the least painful way in the company of their loved ones, but it will be killing nonetheless. Scientifically, we will call this euthanasia, and in some countries, this is even done legally with humans who willingly choose this way to go.

However, this type of mercy killing is not what most captive animals experience at the end of their lives. Instead, they experience another type. One that is cold, mechanical, detached, stressful, painful, violent, and cruel. One that is done in great numbers out of the view of the public. One that is done in an industrialised way all over the world. We call this one “slaughter”, and it happens in sinister facilities called slaughterhouses run by slaughter-people whose job is to kill many animals every day.

You may hear that some of these facilities are better than others because they practice humane slaughter. Well, the truth about humane slaughter is that it does not exist. This article will explain why.

Another Word for Mass Killing

The Truth About Humane Slaughter July 2024

Technically, the term slaughter means two things: the killing of animals for food, and the killing of many people cruelly and unfairly, especially in a war. Why are we not using different terms for these two concepts? Because they are intimately linked. Non-human animals killed for food are killed in mass cruelly and unfairly too. The only difference is that, when it happens to humans during wars, this is exceptional, while when it happens to non-human animals in the animal agriculture industry, this is normal. But the high numbers and the cruelty involved are the same.

So, what would be the difference between “Humane slaughter” and “Inhumane slaughter”? In the human war context, which kind of mass killing would be considered “humane slaughter”?  Which weapons in war are considered to kill civilians in a “humane” way? None. In the human context, it is quite clear that the term “humane slaughter” is an oxymoron, because mass-killing civilians with any means could never be considered humane. No mass murderer has ever received a lenient sentence if the method used to murder people was considered “humane”, because, guess what, there is no such thing as “humane murder”. Even a murderous doctor using the same methods used in euthanasia (a lethal injection) would receive a full sentence for murder for having killed any patient who did not want to die.

If the term “humane slaughter” makes no sense when the victims are humans, would it make sense when the victims are other types of animals? The reason that it makes no sense to humans is that depriving someone who wants to live from living is already a cruel act. Is it not the same when people kill animals for food? The animals don’t want to die, and yet the slaughterhouse workers deprive them of living.  Murder is the crime that receives the highest sentence for a reason. Taking a human’s life is a serious aggrievance because it cannot be corrected. The act is irreversible as the life of a murdered person cannot be returned.

This is the same for slaughtered animals, who are killed when they are very young (many, actual babies). Their lives cannot be returned. They no longer will be able to meet their friends and relatives. They will no longer be able to mate and reproduce. They will no longer be able to explore the world and interact with others. The act of killing them is irreversible, and this is what makes it worse than just distressing, injuring, or hurting them. You cannot humanely slaughter anyone, human or non-human, because slaughtering is killing, the worst possible harm you can do to anyone. If there is no humane murder, there is no humane slaughter.

Animal Welfare in Slaughter

The Truth About Humane Slaughter July 2024

You could argue that there are different degrees of cruelty in murdering someone, and although basic sentences may indeed be the same for all murders, the manner the murder was perpetrated may lead to aggravated sentencing (such as no possibility of parole). Perhaps the same could be said about slaughter, and some types of slaughter may be worse than others so the application of the adjective “humane” for the least bad ones could be justified.

Many politicians, civil servants, and vets think so. They have developed standards for killing that they consider adequate, and any slaughterhouse that would not perform to those standards would be guilty of animal welfare violations. In theory, such standards should guarantee that the non-human animals killed do not suffer when killed, and immediately before it. In theory, they could use the same technology and methods vets use to euthanise companion animals. That would be the least stressful and painless method to kill an animal. Those slaughterhouses that would use such methods could then be classed as “humane slaughterhouses”, right? The truth is that none of these exist.

Because their main motivation is “production”, not animal welfare, and because they have been lobbied by the animal agriculture industry which demands to profit by selling the animal’s flesh for human consumption (which in some cases will not be possible if certain chemicals were injected into the animals to kill them), the politicians, civil servants, and vets who created the standards of killing have deliberately left enough suffering and pain in the process so no humane slaughterhouse can ever be built. None use lethal injections that make the animals peacefully drift into sleep before dying. None allow friends and family to be close to the animals calming them down and reassuring them. None kill the animals in familiar relaxed quiet spaces. On the contrary, they all treat the animals as objects, putting them in very stressful situations where they can see, hear, and smell the killings of others, and they are killed with painful methods.

The “factory” nature of slaughterhouses, aiming at being efficient and killing as many animals as possible in the shortest possible time, will be what guarantees no animal receives a humane death. Going through the conveyor belt of killing in these death factories must be the most terrifying experience these animals have lived, making a mockery of the term “humane”. Slaughterhouses mentally torture the animals they kill by exposing them to the brutal killing of the animals before them, which cannot be softened. The rushed nature of the process also leads to cutting corners, incomplete procedures, rougher handling, errors, accidents, and even the eruption of extra violence by the slaughter-people who may feel frustrated if any animal seems to resist more than others.  Slaughterhouses are hells on earth for anyone who enters them.

Despite all these horrors that go from discomfort to fear, then to pain, and finally to death, these hellish facilities say that what they do is humane. In fact, considering how this term is incorrectly used, they are not lying. No country has legalised inhumane slaughter, so every example of legal slaughter is technically humane. However, the official slaughter standards vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and they also have changed with time. Why are not all the same? Because what was considered acceptable in the past is no longer considered acceptable now, or because what is considered acceptable in one country may not be in another with different animal welfare standards. The animals’ physiology and psychology have not changed, though. Is the same anywhere, now and in the past. How can we then be certain that what we consider acceptable today in our countries will not in the future be considered barbaric by us, or by someone else?  We cannot. Every single standard of humane slaughtering ever created only moves the needle away from the worst possible form of killing, but never far enough to deserve the label “humane”.  All so-called humane slaughter is inhumane, and all humane standards fall short of achieving their purpose.

How Animals Are Slaughtered

The Truth About Humane Slaughter July 2024

Slaughtered animals are killed by hitting them in the head, electrocuting them, cutting their throats, freezing them to death, shooting them in the head with a bolt, cutting them in half, suffocating them with gas, shooting them with guns, causing them lethal osmotic shocks, drowning them, etc. Not all of these methods are allowed for all types of animals, though. Here are some examples of legal slaughter methods per type of animal:

Donkeys. Donkeys that have been forced to work hard all their lives are often sold for money to the Ejiao industry. As their last exhausting journey to their deaths, donkeys in China are forced to march hundreds of miles without food, water, or rest, or crowded in trucks often with their legs tied up together and piled on top of each other. They often arrive at slaughterhouses with broken or severed limbs and may be killed with hammers, axes, or knives before their skins are exported.

Turkeys. Hens are killed at about 14–16 weeks and toms at about 18–20 weeks of age when they can weigh over 20 kg. When sent to a slaughterhouse, turkeys would be hung upside down, stunned by electrified water, and then have their throats cut (which is called sticking). In the UK, the law allows them to be hung for up to 3 minutes before stunning, causing considerable suffering. USDA records have found that nearly one million birds are unintentionally boiled alive each year in US slaughterhouses as the slaughterhouse workers rush them through the system. During winter, due to the high demand, turkeys are often killed in smaller “seasonal” slaughterhouses or on-farm facilities, sometimes done by neck dislocation performed by untrained staff.

Octopuses. There are plans to create a big octopus farm in Spain, which already show how they are planning to slaughter them. The octopuses would be kept in tanks with other octopuses (at times under constant light), in around 1,000 communal tanks in a two-storey building, and they would be killed by being put in containers of freezing water kept at -3C.

Pheasants. In several countries, pheasants are farmed for the shooting industry which breeds them in captivity and rears them in factory farms, but then instead of sending them to slaughterhouses, release them in fenced wild areas and allow paying customers to slaughter them themselves by shooting them with guns.

Ostriches. Farmed ostriches are usually killed at eight to nine months old. Most ostriches are killed in abattoirs by head-only electrical stunning, followed by bleeding, which requires at least four workers to hold the bird down. Other methods used are shooting a captive bolt pistol followed by pithing (inserting a rod through the hole in the bird’s head and stirring the brain around) and bleeding.

Crickets. Crickets in factory farms are bred in captivity in overcrowded conditions (as is characteristic of factory farming), and about six weeks after being born they will be killed by different methods. One of them would be freezing (cooling the crickets gradually until they enter a state of hibernation called diapause, and then freezing them until they die). Other methods of killing crickets include boiling, baking, or drowning them alive.

Geese. The age of slaughter for geese used to produce foie gras varies depending on the country and the production method, but it is generally between 9 and 20 weeks. At the slaughterhouse, many birds survive the electric stunning process and are still conscious as their throats are cut and they are thrown into the scalding-hot water.

Crustaceans. Crustaceans are the number one factory-farmed animal in the world, and all the crustaceans on farms will eventually be killed using different methods. Here are the most common: Spiking (this is a method of killing crabs by inserting a sharp object into their ganglia located under the eyes and at the rear of the carapace. This method requires skill and accuracy, and it can cause pain to the crabs), Splitting (is a method of killing lobsters by cutting them in half with a knife along the midline of the head, thorax, and abdomen. This method can also cause pain.), Chilling in Ice Slur (this is used in tropical species of marine crustaceans susceptible to colder temperatures, as chilling in ice slurry may render them unconscious. Generally, a minimum of 20 minutes of immersion in ice slurry is required to induce unconsciousness), Boiling (this is a common method of killing crabs, lobsters, and crayfish, but it is considered inhumane by most people as it obviously causes prolonged suffering and pain to the animals), Carbon-Dioxide Gassing (Crustaceans are also killed by increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in water, but the animals suffer distress by this method), Drowning with fresh water (this means killing marine crustaceans by altering salinity, effectively “drowning” saltwater species in freshwater by osmotic shock), Salt baths (placing the crustaceans in water that has a high concentration of salt also kills them by osmosis shock. This may be used for freshwater crustaceans), High pressure (this is a method of killing lobsters by subjecting them to high hydrostatic pressure, up to 2000 atmospheres, for a few seconds), Anaesthetics (it is rare, but the use of chemicals to kill crustaceans has also been practised. AQUI-S, a clove oil-based product, has been approved for the killing of aquatic animals for human consumption in New Zealand, Australia, Chile, South Korea, and Costa Rica).

Rabbits. Rabbits are slaughtered at a young age, usually between 8 to 12 weeks for growing rabbits and 18 to 36 months for breeding rabbits (rabbits can live for more than 10 years). The methods employed to do so on commercial farms include blunt force trauma, throat slitting, or mechanical cervical dislocation, all of which can result in prolonged suffering and unnecessary pain for these gentle animals. In the EU, commercially slaughtered rabbits are usually electrically stunned before slaughter, but investigations have shown that rabbits may be frequently incorrectly stunned. The transport of the animals to the slaughterhouse will also cause them stress.

Salmons. Farmed salmons are killed at a much younger age than a wild salmonid would die, and the methods used to kill them would cause a great deal of suffering. The Scottish salmon industry typically uses electrical and percussive stunning methods (administering a severe blow to the skull of the fish) when slaughtering Atlantic salmon, but stunning before slaughter is not mandatory under the law so millions of fishes are still killed without prior stunning.

Chickens. After just a few weeks of life, broiler chickens are sent to slaughter. Whether they lived on a factory farm or the so-called “free range” farms, they would all end up in the same slaughterhouses. In there, many chickens are subjected to electric stunning, but improper stunning can result in chickens being fully conscious during the slaughtering process, leading to extreme suffering and distress. Additionally, the speed and volume of the slaughter process can result in poor handling and inadequate stunning, causing further pain and terror for these birds. In other slaughterhouses, the chickens would be killed by suffocating gas. In the egg industry, the male chick may be macerated alive in machines soon after hatching (this is also called  “grinding”, “shredding” or “mincing”). In the UK, 92% of egg-laying hens are killed with gas, 6.4% are killed with the halal (stun method) using an electric bath, and 1.4% are halal non-stun. In the case of broiler chickens, 70% are gassed to death, 20% are electrically stunned followed by sticking, and 10% are non-stun halal before sticking.

Cows. Cows and bulls are executed in mass in slaughterhouses, often having their throats cut (sticking), or with a bold shot in the head (some may also have received an electric current to stun them). There, they will all line up to their demise, possibly feeling terrified because of hearing, seeing, or smelling other cows being killed before them. Those final horrors of the lives of dairy cows are the same for those bred in the worse factory farms and those bred in the organic “high welfare” grass-fed razing farms — they both end up being transported against their will and killed in the same slaughterhouses when they are still young. Because only cows give milk and bulls raised for meat are from a different breed than those raised from dairy, most of the calves who were born every year to force the cow to continue to produce milk are “disposed of” if they happened to be male (which would be around 50% of the cases), as they are considered surplus. This means that they would be killed immediately after being born (so as not to waste any of the mother’s milk), or a few weeks later to be consumed as veal. In the UK, 80% of cows and bulls are killed with captive bolts followed by sticking, and 20% with electrical stunning followed by sticking, or electrical stun-kill.

Sheeps. The wool industry, intertwined with the meat industry, also kills sheeps both as babies but also as adults, who would be killed prematurely in slaughterhouses (a sheep in the industry only lives an average of five years, while a sheep in the wild or a sanctuary can live an average of 12 years). Most sheeps are killed by electrical stunning followed by sticking. The other main method is the captive bolt. Around 75% of sheep are killed by a halal method, and 25% of all sheep are killed by a cut to the throat without stunning – almost all of these being halal.

Pigs.  Domesticated pigs can live for around 20 years under good conditions, while the meat industry kills babies as young as 3-6 months. The mothers, on the other hand, are killed when they are 2 or 3 years old when their abusers consider that their productivity is insufficient, after having been forcibly inseminated over and over again throughout their sad and short existence. Most pigs are slaughtered in CO2 gas chambers by suffocation, which is the most common method of killing pigs in the UK, the US, Australia and the rest of Europe. They may also be killed by shooting a penetrating captive bolt in their heads. They may also be electrocuted to stun them. In the UK, 88% of pigs are killed with gas kill, while 12% with electrical stunning followed by sticking.

Stunning in Slaughter

The Truth About Humane Slaughter July 2024

All legal slaughter methods are considered humane by those who legalised them, even if they may be considered inhumane by others who legalised other methods, adding more evidence that there is no such thing as humane slaughter, but just different types of in humane slaughter (or just “slaughter”). One of the clearest examples of this difference of opinion regarding what is the right way to mass kill animals centres on the concept of stunning, which is the process of rendering animals immobile or unconscious, with or without killing the animal, when or immediately before killing them.

Electrical stunning is done by sending an electric current through the brain and/or heart of the animal before slaughter, which induces an immediate but non-fatal general convulsion that theoretically produces unconsciousness. Current passing through the heart produces an immediate cardiac arrest that also leads shortly to unconsciousness and death. Other methods of stunning are with gas, exposing animals to a mixture of breathing gases (argon and nitrogen for example, or CO2) that produce unconsciousness or death through hypoxia or asphyxia, and percussive stunning, in which a device hits the animal on the head, with or without penetration (devices such as the captive bolt pistol can be either pneumatic or powder-actuated).

The Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) states that “if a stunning method does not cause instantaneous insensibility, the stunning must be non-aversive (i.e. must not cause fear, pain or other unpleasant feelings) to the animal.” However, there is no evidence that any method used in slaughterhouses accomplished this.

The issue about stunning is that it is an extra process that brings its own suffering. Inmobilising the animals for the stunning, and applying the method, may not only produce discomfort and fear but also pain, even if it is done following protocol precisely. Not all animals react the same way to the methods, and some may remain conscious (so these animals could be argued would suffer more because they have to endure both the stunning and the killing). Ineffective stunning, or misstunning, can leave an animal in an agonising state where they are paralysed, but still able to see, hear and feel everything when their throat is slit. Additionally, due to the rushed nature of slaughterhouses, many stunning is not done as it should. Almost all undercover investigations of slaughterhouses have exposed both staff being violently abusive or incompetent in breach of regulations, or the methods aimed to render animals unconscious —  or making them die quickly — not working as intended.

For instance, in January 2024, Gosschalk slaughterhouse in Epe, Netherlands, was fined €15,000 and employees faced criminal prosecution, for mistreating animals. Investigations from animal rights activists produced an undercover video of pigs and cows being beaten with paddles, pulled by the tail and given unnecessary electric shocks on the way to slaughter. It is believed this is the first time a Dutch slaughterhouse has been sanctioned for the mistreatment of animals.

The French animal rights organization L214 released footage recorded in April and May 2023 of Bazas slaughterhouse in Gironde, France, revealing the horrifying conditions the animals, mostly from organic meat farms, were treated. The organisation claimed that severe breaches of regulations resulting in excessive suffering for animals such as cows, bulls, lambs, and piglets, had taken place. These included ineffective stunning methods, bleeding while still conscious, and the use of electric prods on sensitive parts of the animals’ bodies. The footage also showed three calves who entered the wrong box apparently stabbed in the eye with an electric prod.

In April 2024, new undercover footage obtained by animal rights investigators in the UK showed a worker hitting pigs in the face and on their backs with a paddle as they put them into CO2 gas chambers to be killed by suffocation. The video was taken by animal rights activist Joey Carbstrong, the maker of Pignorant, at a slaughterhouse owned and run by Cranswick Country Foods in Watton, Norfolk, supplying to major supermarkets such as Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, and Marks and Spencer. Many of the pigs executed at this abattoir were from farms rubberstamped by the RSPCA Assured scheme.

The animal rights organisation Animal Equality has undertaken many exposés of the conditions animals are treated in slaughterhouses in Mexico, Brazil, Spain, the UK, and Italy, and PETA has done the same with US slaughterhouses.  There are more and more cases of ex-slaughterhouse workers speaking up about what is going on inside them, and showing that there is nothing humane happening there.

In 2017, a UK Food Standard Agency survey estimated that hundreds of millions of animals were killed without an effective stun, including 184 million birds and 21,000 cows.

Is Religious Slaughter More Humane?

The Truth About Humane Slaughter July 2024

In some jurisdictions stunning is a mandatory part of the slaughter process because it is considered it spares some suffering to the slaughtered animal during the actual kill. In the EU, it is considered that, without stunning, the time between cutting through the major blood vessels to bleed the animals to death and insensibility is up to 20 seconds in sheep, up to 25 seconds in pigs, up to 2 minutes in cows, up to 2.5 or more minutes in birds, and sometimes 15 minutes or more in fishes. There are variations between countries about what is allowed, though. In the Netherlands, the law states that chickens must be stunned for 4 seconds minimum with an average current of 100 mA, which is considered under-stunning in some other countries. In Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Slovenia, and Denmark stunning is always compulsory before slaughter, also for religious slaughter. In Austria, Estonia, Latvia, and Slovakia stunning is required immediately after the incision if the animal has not been stunned before. In Germany, the national authority permits abattoirs to slaughter animals without stunning only if they show they have local religious customers for the request.

In the US, stunning is regulated by the provisions of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (7 U.S.C. 1901). The European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter, or Slaughter Convention (Council of Europe, 1979), requires all solipeds (like horses or donkeys), ruminants (like cows or sheeps), and pigs to be stunned before slaughter through one of the three modern methods (concussion, electronarcosis, or gas), and prohibits the use of pole-axes, hammers and puntillas. However, parties may permit exemptions for religious slaughter, emergency slaughter, and slaughter of birds, rabbits and other small animals. These religious exemptions are where the controversy lies, because religions such as Islam claim that their Halal method of slaughter is more humane, and Judaism claims that their Kosher method is more humane.

Shechita is the Jewish ritual slaughter of birds and cows for food according to Halakha. Today, kosher slaughtering does not include any religious ceremony, although the slaughtering practice may not have deviated from the traditional rituals if the meat is to be consumed by Jews. The animals are killed by drawing a very sharp knife across the animal’s throat making a single incision incising the trachea and oesophagus. The animal is not allowed to be unconscious before the cut to the throat, but it is often put into a device that turns the body around and immobilises it.

Ḏabīḥah is the practice prescribed in Islam for slaughtering all halal animals (goats, sheep, cows, chickens, etc.), only excluding fish and marine animals. This practice of slaughtering halal animals needs several conditions: the butcher must follow an Abrahamic religion (ie. Muslim, Christian, or Jew); the name of God should be called while slaughtering each halal animal separately; the killing should consist of complete drainage of blood from the whole body by a swift, deep incision with a very sharp knife on the throat, cutting the windpipe, jugular veins and carotid arteries of both sides but leaving the spinal cord intact. Some interpret that pre-stunning is allowed, while others do not consider it to be within Islamic law.

The UK government doesn’t have a legal requirement to ensure all animals are stunned before slaughter, so around 65% of animals slaughtered in the UK for Halal are stunned first, but all animals slaughtered under the Shechita (for Kosher) are non-stunned. In 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed that ritual slaughter without stunning may take place only in an approved slaughterhouse.

In 2017, Flanders mandated that all animals be stunned before slaughter, and Wallonia followed in 2018, effectively banning religious slaughter in the entire Belgium territory. A group of 16 people and 7 advocacy groups opposing the ban first brought a suit in a Belgian court, which landed at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg in 2020. On 13th February 2024, the European Court of Human Rights, Europe’s top rights court, upheld the Belgian ban on slaughtering farmed animals for food without first stunning them, opening the door for other EU countries to ban religious slaughter without stunning.

All this controversy just confirms that there is no such thing as humane slaughter, and what religions, traditions, and laws do is simply sanitise an unforgivable act of cruelty and claim their methods are less cruel than those others use.

Humane Is a Misleading Word

The Truth About Humane Slaughter July 2024

The last piece left in dismantling the concept of “Humane Slaughter” is the word “Humane” itself. This term means having or showing compassion, sympathy, benevolence, and consideration for others. In the same way that humans have chosen to call themselves “the wise ape” (Homo sapiens), it is unsurprisingly arrogant for the human race to use the name of its species as the root of a word intended to mean “compassionate” and “benevolent.”

This is not surprising because we live in a world where carnism is the prevailing ideology. One of the main axioms of carnism is the Axiom of Supremacism, which states, “We are the superior beings, and all other beings are in a hierarchy under us”, so we tend to crown ourselves on top of any hierarchy, and naturally we use the term “human”  to mean superior in many contexts. For instance, in the way beings kill other beings, we have labelled the “human-way” to do it as the best way, and we call it the “humane” way. Another main axiom of carnism is the axiom of Violence, which states, “Violence against other sentient beings is inevitable to survive”.  Therefore, carnists accept slaughtering as a legitimate activity that cannot be avoided, and they consider the human-way to slaughter is the best way. Finally, another main axiom of carnism is the axiom of Dominion, which states, “The exploitation of other sentient beings and our dominion over them is necessary to prosper.” With this one carnists justify making legal methods of slaughter that are not the least painful or stressful possible because in their minds the need to prosper by exploiting others justifies prioritising efficiency in killing over the wellbeing of those killed. In other words, the “human-appropriate” method chosen to mass kill those whom the “superior” humans exploit does not need to be the most compassionate and benevolent method anymore. All these carnist axioms together have created the oxymoronic concept of “humane slaughter” we see around the world today.

As veganism is the opposite of carnism, its axioms would point us in the opposite direction. The axiom of ahimsa would prevent vegans (and vegetarians) from slaughtering anyone for any reason, the axioms of animal sentience and anti-speciesism would prevent us from making any exceptions, the axiom of anti-exploitation would prevent us from even finding a truly compassionate method to mass-kill those under our care, and the axiom of vicariousness would makes us campaign against animal slaughter and not buy the deception of “humane slaughter” that reducetarians and flexitarians seem to naively belief. There is a world where slaughter does not exist, and that is The Vegan World of the future, but in this carnist world we live now, what does not exist is “humane slaughter.”

If all animals voted to choose a word for the most descriptive term for our species, the term “killer” would probably win. The terms “human” and “killer” could well become synonymous in their minds. For them, anything “humane” may feel like death.

“Humane Slaughter” has turned out to be the euphemistic cruel way humans mass-kill others.

Notice: This content was initially published on and may not necessarily reflect the views of the Humane Foundation.

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