Humane slaughter of livestock


Ratification Date: 07 Dec 2018


  1. The slaughter of animals for food must be carried out in a humane manner. Regardless of religious or cultural beliefs, prior to slaughter animals must be humanely and immediately rendered unconscious via stunning, and remain unconscious until death occurs.
  2. Abattoirs in Australia should install Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV) to assist in meeting animal welfare requirements. CCTV would allow establishments to observe and verify handling, stunning and slaughter operations, and inform training requirements.


A number of animal species are slaughtered in Australia for food including sheep, cattle, pigs and poultry. Arrangements must be in place so that animals are spared unnecessary excitement, pain, stress or suffering during movement, restraint, stunning and slaughter.

Humanely rendering animals unconscious prior to exsanguination is important because a sheep can remain conscious for up to 20 seconds after its throat is cut, while loss of consciousness in cattle under similar circumstances can take up to two minutes, due to the collateral supply of blood to the brain through the vertebral arteries.1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9


There are species-specific guidelines on how to slaughter animals humanely included in the relevant Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines.10,11,12 There are also best practice international guidelines developed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)13, the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA)14 and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).15


  1. Gibson, T.J., Johnson, C.B., Murrell, J.C., Chambers, J.P, Stafford, K.J., and Mellor, D.J. (2009). Components of electroencephalographic responses to slaughter in halothane-anaesthetised calves: Effects of cutting neck tissues compared to major vessels. New Zealand Veterinary Journal. 57:84-89.
  2. Gibson, T.J., Johnson, C.B., Murrell, J.C., Hulls, C.M., Mitchinson, S.L., Stafford, K.J., Johnstone, A.C., and Mellor, D.J. (2009). Electrocencephalographic responses of halothane-anaesthetised calves to slaughter by ventral-neck incision without prior stunning. New Zealand Veterinary Journal. 57:77-85.
  3. European Food safety Authority (2004). Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Animal Health and Welfare on a request from the Commission related to welfare aspects of the main systems of stunning and killing the main commercial species of animals (2004). The EFSA Journal (2004). 45, 1-29
  4. Grandin T (2010). Discussion of research that shows that Kosher or Halal Slaughter without stunning causes pain. Viewed on 13 October 2011 at: http://www.grandin.com/ritual/rec.ritual.slaughter.html
  5. Grandin T (2011). Welfare During Slaughter without stunning (Kosher or Halal) differences between Sheep and Cattle. Viewed on 13 October 2011 at: http://www.grandin.com/ritual/rec.ritual.slaughter.html
  6. Gregory, N.G., Fielding HR, Von Wenzlawowicz, M., and Von Holleben, K (2010). Time to collapse following slaughter without stunning of cattle. Meat Science. 85:66-69.
  7. Gregory NG, Shaw FD, Whitford JC, Patterson-Kane JC (2006). Prevalence of ballooning of the severed carotid arteries at slaughter in cattle, calves and sheep. Meat Science 74(4) 655-657
  8. Gregory, N.G., Von Wenzlawowicz, M., and Von Holleben, K., 2008. Blood in the respiratory tract during slaughter with and without stunning in cattle. Meat Science. 82:13-16.
  9. Gregory, N.G., Von Wenzlawowicz, M, Alam RM, Anil HM, Sildere TY, Silva-Fletcher A (2008). False aneurysms in carotid arteries if cattle and water buffalo during Shechita and halal slaughter. Meat Science 79 (2) 285-288
  10. AAV Code of Welfare for Alpacas and Llamas Australia (2016)
  11. Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle (2016): http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/files/2016/02/Cattle-Standards-and-Guidelines-Endorsed-Jan-2016-250116.pdf
  12. Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep (2016): http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/files/2011/01/Sheep-Standards-and-Guidelines-for-Endorsed-Jan-2016-061017.pdf
  13. FAO Guidelines: http://www.fao.org/3/a-x6909e.pdf
  14. HSA Guidelines: https://www.hsa.org.uk/publications/online-guides
  15. AVMA Guidelines: https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/Guidelines-Humane-Slaughter-Animals.aspx