Humane slaughter guidelines available for comment

By Malinda Larkin
Published: 19 December 2022


Veterinarians have a responsibility to advocate for what’s best for animals under any circumstance, whether they are raised for food or fiber or kept as a companion animal.

In keeping with that duty, the AVMA Guidelines for the Humane Slaughter of Animals, which cover the humane slaughter of animals raised for food or fiber, reflect the AVMA’s ongoing commitment to ensure that the treatment of animals during every stage of life is as humane and respectful as possible.

Between 10% and 15% of the U.S. veterinary profession is involved in promoting the health and welfare of animals that will eventually become food.

Beef cattle

The recommendations in the document are intended to guide veterinarians, who must then use professional judgment in applying them to the various settings where animals are to be slaughtered.

The AVMA Panel on Humane Slaughter and its working groups spent about two years revising the 2016 version of the guidelines. Now the draft revisions are available for comment by AVMA members until Jan. 28, 2023. The panel will reconcile comments received before the guidelines are published next year.

Dr. Robert Meyer, a member of the panel, said the expanded guidelines encompass more species—including the slaughter of animals not primarily designated for the food chain, such as animals raised for fur—and has been made more user-friendly via organization by species rather than by techniques. Other revisions are as follows:

  • The introduction has been updated with information about applicable federal statutes and regulations.
  • Religious nonstun slaughter has been incorporated within the relevant species sections.
  • Fur bearers have been added as a category of animals, covering mink, foxes, and rabbits.
  • The following species sections have been expanded:
    • Aquatics to include invertebrates, decapods, and eels.
    • Bovids to include water buffaloes and American bison.
    • Equids to include comment about donkey hides.
    • Poultry to include ratites and more information on waterfowl.
    • Small ruminants to include camelids.
    • Reptiles and amphibians to include crocodiles.

In addition, all species sections include updated references.

Dr. Meyer, who is a professor emeritus of clinical sciences at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said the panel consists of veterinarians, animal scientists, and animal ethicists who form the panel’s recommendations by reviewing the most current and best scientific literature and tapping their own expertise as well as the knowledge of their colleagues serving on the working groups.

Every stage of the slaughter process is addressed, from an animal’s arrival at a facility—if applicable—through the animal’s death. The guidelines include information related to regulations, oversight, and training; design of facilities and movement through facilities; techniques; and how to detect problems in the process and take corrective actions. The morality of killing animals for food is not covered in the guidelines.


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