The implementation of methods to handle and slaughter animals in a more compassionate manner ensures that establishments minimize the possibility of needless injuries and suffering of livestock. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is responsible for verifying that all federally inspected livestock establishments are complying with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. In-plant inspection personnel perform daily surveillance of humane handling activities at regulated establishments and District Veterinary Medical Specialists (DMVS) serve as the primary contacts for all humane handling and slaughter issues in the field and are liaisons between the district offices and headquarters. The DVMSs are responsible for onsite coordination of nationally prescribed humane handling inspection activities, as well as for correlating with FSIS in-plant personnel (IPP) on Agency policy and information related to the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA).
This page provides information and resources related to the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978 [7 USC 1901–1906], which states that the handling and slaughtering of livestock are to be carried out only by humane methods.
Statutes and Regulations
Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (7 USC, 1901–1907)
These statutory sections comprise what is commonly termed the Humane Slaughter Act. Included in these sections are Congress' statement that livestock must be slaughtered in a humane manner to prevent needless suffering, research methods on humane methods of slaughter, the non-applicability of these statutes to religious or ritual slaughter, and the investigation into the care of non-ambulatory livestock.
The CFR is the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government.
Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 USC, 601 -695)
These acts prescribe the examinations and inspections to be carried out prior to and during the slaughter of all amenable species.
FSIS Directive 6900.2 - Humane Handling and Slaughter of Livestock
This directive informs inspection program personnel of the requirements, verification activities, and enforcement actions for ensuring that the handling and slaughter of livestock, including the slaughter of livestock by religious ritual methods, is humane.
FSIS Directive 6100.1 Revision 3 - Ante-Mortem Livestock Inspection
This directive provides instructions to inspection program personnel (IPP) on how to inspect livestock before slaughter (ante-mortem inspection) and the methods used to verify that livestock offered for slaughter have received ante-mortem inspection.
FSIS Directive 6110.1 - Verification of Poultry Good Commercial Practices
This directive is a consolidation of relevant information from Section VII, Verification of Good Commercial Practices for Poultry, of FSIS Directive 6100.3, Ante-mortem and Post-mortem Poultry Inspection and expired FSIS Notice 44-16, Instructions For Writing Poultry Good Commercial Practices Noncompliance Records and Memorandum of Interview Letters For Poultry Mistreatment. The directive provides instructions to inspection program personnel (IPP) for writing a noncompliance record (NR) for noncompliance with the regulations requiring the slaughter of poultry in accordance with Good Commercial Practices (GCP), as well as instructions for composing a Memorandum of Interview (MOI) when documenting a meeting between IPP and establishment management regarding an observation of the mistreatment of live poultry before slaughter.
Docket No. FSIS-2013-0003 (Oct 29, 2013)
Availability of FSIS Compliance Guide for a Systematic Approach to the Humane Handling of Livestock.
FSIS Compliance Guide for a Systematic Approach to the Humane Handling of Livestock (Oct 23, 2013)
FSIS developed this guide to promote a systematic approach to achieve compliance with the 9 CFR Part 313 regulatory requirements for humane handling and slaughter of livestock.
See Also: Compliance Guidelines for Use of Video or Other Electronic Monitoring or Recording Equipment in Federally Inspected Establishments (Aug 26, 2011)
This guideline was written to provide information to industry on the use of video or other electronic monitoring or recording equipment to help it maintain compliance with federal regulations, including humane treatment of livestock and the use of good commercial practices in poultry.
DVMS Enhanced Outreach Plan:
The U. S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) FSIS has developed an initiative to increase small and very small slaughter establishments’ knowledge of humane handling and good commercial practices (GCP) best practices, leading to adoption of such practices for both meat and poultry.
The DVMS Enhanced Outreach Objective:
- Improve HH/GCP compliance through enhanced outreach via site visits and other outreach events, particularly for small and very small slaughter plants.
- Increased adoption/application of consistent and effective best practices producing more compliance with HH/GCP regulatory requirements.
- Provide one-on-one opportunity to highlight prevention of events that result in FSIS enforcement actions.
Enhanced Outreach Visits by DVMSs are voluntary (non-regulated) and focus on:
- Communications with establishment management;
- Proper stunning and restraint of animals;
- Sufficient humane handling or GCP facilities;
- Humane handling enforcement actions; and
- Robust systematic approach (RSA) for livestock.
The enhanced outreach meetings are distinct from the regulatory Verification Visits that DVMSs will continue. The Verification Visit’s purpose is to assess the establishment’s humane handling system as required by regulation to meet the Humane Methods Slaughter Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act. The purpose of the voluntary Enhanced Outreach Visit is to support the small and very small operator with one-on-one visits from an agency expert on HH/GCP, the DVMS. The focus is on prevention and enhancement not on enforcement.
Humane Handling Enforcement Actions
Listing of official enforcement actions FSIS has taken against establishments that have been found in violation of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
Humane Handling Basics
This training informs inspection program personnel of the regulatory requirements, verification activities, and enforcement actions for ensuring that the handling and slaughter of livestock is humane.
- AgLearn Course: Humane Handling Basics
- Humane Handling Basics PPT
- AgLearn Course: FSIS - Situation Based HH Part 1
- AgLearn Course: FSIS - Situation Based HH Part 2
Humane Handling Consciousness and Stunning
This training covers establishment and Inspection Program Personnel (IPP) Humane Handling (HH) responsibilities related to animal consciousness and stunning, including relevant scenarios.
- AgLearn Course: FSIS - Humane Handling: Consciousness and Stunning
- Humane Handling Consciousness and Stunning PPT
Humane Interactive Knowledge Exchange (HIKE)
Through the use of fictional scenarios, HIKE allows an employee to review FSIS requirements, and hopefully, to correlate with his or her work-group and supervisor regarding the application of those requirements.
The list below is primarily industry resources and are not intended to be all inclusive. Industry must continue to comply with FSIS regulations and the HSMA.
Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines & Audit Guide: A Systematic Approach to Animal Welfare
Guide produced by the North American Meat Institute based on research by Dr. Temple Grandin.
Humane Handling of Livestock and Poultry Booklet
An educational guidebook based on FSIS policies.