Myth: Livestock are Aware and Afraid They are Going to be Slaughtered
Based on research from leading animal welfare expert Temple Grandin and others, animals are unaware they are about to be slaughtered when arriving at a processing facility. Grandin notes that cows will behave the same whether they are going into a veterinary chute on the farm or in a processing facility, a strong indication that they do not know they are going to be slaughtered. Other research shows that pigs watching stunning and slaughter of another pig had little or no change in heart rate, cortisol or β-endorphin levels. 1 When they are afraid, animals will back up or refuse to move forward. The most likely causes of agitation in processing facilities are distractions such as lighting problems, air blowing towards the animals, movement or high pitched noise. 2
A lone animal by itself in a chute may also become agitated because he is separated from his herd mates. That’s why it is important to handle animals in groups.
Humane handling of livestock has many important benefits. First, it is our ethical obligation to handle animals humanely. Also, mishandling animals can lead to meat quality issues. Stressful events can cause quality problems like "bloodshot" in beef or produce pale, soft and watery pork, both of which are unattractive to consumers and require that parts of the meat be trimmed away. Plants with optimal animal handling produce higher quality meat.
Good animal handling also enhances safety for workers. Animals that become agitated due to rough handling can injure workers – and themselves.
Calm animals also are less likely to damage equipment – but a stressed or struggling animal might.
For these reasons, plants do everything possible to create calm, low-stress atmospheres that work with – rather than against – animals’ natural instincts. The benefits of these practices to workers, to meat quality, to equipment and most importantly to livestock are well-documented by scientific research.
- Anil,M.H., McKinstry,J.L., Wotton,S.B. & Gregory,N.G. (1995a). Meat Science 41: 101-112
- Animal Welfare in Slaughter Plants