Every hour, some 1,000,000 chickens, 13,000 pigs and 4,000 cows are slaughtered for human consumption in the United States. It is a process that takes place far from public view, and one that few know very much about.
In the past, revelations about cruelty to animals during the slaughtering process resulted in actions by Congress to improve enforcement of the federal law created to protect animals at slaughter – primarily the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA). Despite congressional action, however, enforcement of the HMSA by the U.S. Department of Agriculture remains lacking.
The Animal Welfare Institute worked diligently for passage of the original law in 1958 and for an amendment that provided for enforcement in 1979. The HMSA requires humane handling before slaughter, as well as the rendering of animals insensible to pain prior to being shackled, hoisted or cut (a process referred to as “stunning”).
The HMSA applies to the more than 147 million livestock killed each year at approximately 800 federally inspected slaughter plants, and to a much smaller number of animals killed at state-inspected plants.
Shamefully, the HMSA does not protect the more than 9 billion chickens, 260 million turkeys, 27 million ducks, and 6 million rabbits slaughtered each year in the U.S., nor does it apply to animals killed on the farm.
Find more about common humane slaughter violations and which plants are the worst offenders.