One time I was explaining to my friends how a slaughterhouse for cattle operates. I do not know every single detail about cattle operations, and I also didn’t grow up with cattle, but I did know a bit more than they did.
They obviously knew the cattle were killed, but didn’t understand how it all happened — they assumed it was gruesome and the animals endured a lot of pain.
Well, those assumptions aren’t true.
When livestock arrive at a plant, they must have water at all times and are given food if they are staying for extended periods of time. It’s also extremely important that the animals undergo a stress-free handling. If the livestock are stressed right before slaughter, their meat quality will decrease significantly and will not be suitable for consumer purchasing.
An S-shaped cattle chute is often used for getting cattle into the slaughterhouse, because they like to walk in circles and the S reminds them of that motion. This makes the cattle feel inclined to move forward on their own.
Workers use a captive bolt gun to knock the cattle unconscious. People who use the gun are highly trained, and when used correctly, the captive bolt gun is painless.
The Humane Slaughter Act, approved in 1958, was also designed to decrease suffering of livestock during slaughter. The Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors are responsible for visiting the plants, overseeing the operation and making sure the animals are handled properly.
If inspectors find problems, the operation has the potential to be shut down.
It’s also interesting how our culture is so accustomed to hunting shows, fishing shows, wildlife killing other wildlife, yet discussing how cattle are slaughtered can be such a taboo subject. This, once again, can lead to misinformed people if never discussed.
Alyssa is a senior majoring in public relations and advertising/agriculture communications.