Humane Methods of Slaughter Act

Humane Methods of Slaughter Act - Photo by AWI

The first federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (P.L. 85-765) is signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on August 27. The Act requires all packers selling to the US government to provide anesthetization or instant stunning by mechanical or electrical means prior to the killing of cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep, swine and other livestock, except in the case of kosher slaughter. The law covers 80 percent of the livestock slaughtered (see 1978 amendments).

The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act is expanded by an amendment requiring that livestock (poultry are specifically excluded) imported into the United States for meat be slaughtered humanely. Foreign packers exporting to this country must meet standards equal to those required of US packers. USDA inspectors are empowered to stop the slaughtering line on the spot if they observe any cruelty. Slaughter may not recommence until deficiencies, whether of equipment or of abuses by personnel, are corrected.

Note: Although the US Congress has never repealed the humane slaughter laws of 1958 and 1978, the laws are blatantly disregarded. The large-scale plants move animals so rapidly through the slaughter lines that it is impossible to stun and kill them humanely. Animals may be dismembered or scalded while still alive and conscious, their cries echoing through the plants. Succumbing to industry pressure, the USDA is failing to enforce the law as mandated by the US Congress.

The 2002 Farm Bill (P.L. 107-171) includes a resolution dictating that the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 should be fully enforced, preventing the needless suffering of animals. It further calls on the Secretary of Agriculture to track violations of the Act and “report the results and relevant trends annually to the US Congress.”

Find out more about farm animals at slaughter.