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Is home slaughter of farm animals humane?

RSPCA Australia is opposed to the sale at (street) markets and saleyards of individual farm animals destined for home slaughter because it cannot be guaranteed that such animals will be humanely and competently handled, transported and then killed. Such practices may occur, for example, during certain religious festivals where it is common to sacrifice an animal, e.g. a goat, sheep or cow.

Our policy on transport of food animals states that we support the humane slaughter of food animals as near as possible to the point of production. Our policy on humane killing states that an animal must be killed instantly or instantaneously rendered insensible to pain until death supervenes. In addition, the method of killing and the skill of the operator are essential aspects of the slaughtering process. For instance, the RSPCA considers shooting by firing a bullet into the brain to be the most consistent and reliable means of humanely killing most livestock animals. This requires skill and experience in the use of the appropriate firearm for this purpose and experience in handling the species concerned.

Home slaughter is not illegal in Australia, but meat from animals killed ‘at home’ is not allowed to be sold in a commercial context, i.e. it is for home use only.

Home slaughter may also be carried out ‘on farm’ where individual animals are slaughtered (usually by the farmer) for personal consumption. The concept of a mobile slaughtering unit arose from this need. A mobile slaughtering unit drives into the paddock, the animal is shot, the meat processed inside the unit and the carcass/cuts provided to the owner of the animal.

This method of slaughter is not designed for large-scale meat processing (around 40 million cattle, calves, sheep, lambs are slaughtered in Australia each year). Regulation of the industry, licensing of mobile butchers, and the ability to comply to food safety standards are the initial steps which could eventually lead to these butchers being able to sell their meat commercially and subsequently operate on a larger scale. The NSW Food Authority, for example, has granted a licence to a mobile slaughtering unit in that state meaning that the slaughter of animals must be conducted according to NSW Food Authority requirements.

Mobile slaughtering units with experienced operators provide a welfare advantage in terms of eliminating the stress of (long-distance) transport, the stress of mixing with unfamiliar animals and the stress of the slaughtering process itself.

Inexperienced persons slaughtering an animal, for example in the form of a religious sacrifice or during home slaughter, does not fulfill our expectations for humane slaughter. The RSPCA strongly condemns such practices.

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Updated on July 13, 2021
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