Ensuring a Respectful Slaughter
We wrote the following article in response to several enquiries about our slaughter process. It has garnered a lot of discussion on Facebook, good and bad, including radical vegans who think we are murderers or worse. Sometimes being transparent is a double edged sword. 🙁
Keeping an animal calm and quiet at slaughter is very important to us and is essential for a quality end product. It is important to understand that a successful low stress and respectful slaughter starts before an animal is born by selecting their genetics. We have spent decades on TK Ranch doing our best to select cows and bulls that naturally have a calm disposition. But the most critical factor that affects a good outcome at slaughter is ensuring animals are handled properly from birth. This means establishing a working relationship with them based on a balance between trust and respect. The objective is to get them to move voluntarily without having to resort to force and fear in all handling situations. We implemented low stress handling on TK Ranch in 1990 and my husband Dylan has been teaching these techniques to a broad sector of the livestock industry across Canada and the US since that time. Please see an article related to his handling clinics here:
Unfortunately, if you haven’t spent time on a farm or ranch handling cattle, this will not have a lot of meaning for you. But traditionally moving and handling cattle often involves chasing, arm waving, yelling, using canes or whips and ends up being a high paced rodeo exercise. Please understand that livestock handlers do not intentionally act this way; humans are naturally hard-wired to behave in a predatory manner and to override these impulses takes awareness, commitment and effort to achieve. Cattle handling can be a very difficult task depending on the circumstances and requires patience and an understanding of herding dynamics. If a handler cannot control his or her impulses and resorts to force and fear to get the job done, the cattle remember this and a nervous and flighty herd that is difficult to control can result.
After 27 years of practicing low stress handling, we are able to calmly and quietly handle and move our animals in all circumstances; this includes our finished cattle the day before slaughter. We walk our herd to our corral system, sort out the animals destined for slaughter, then walk them to our abattoir holding pens nearby. We built our own government-inspected slaughter facility on TK Ranch because we wanted to remove the potential stress of loading and hauling our animals hundreds of kilometers to a custom slaughter facility. Often this stress is enough to upset an animal prior to slaughter. Add to this the stress of being unloaded into a strange facility and handled by people rushing to get the job done regardless of an animal’s emotional state, and all too often the end result is filled with fear and anxiety.
We want to avoid a fear laden slaughter and to achieve this we built our own small abattoir on TK Ranch so we could control all aspects of the process. Once our animals are in the abattoir’s holding pens, we do a pre-slaughter dry-run through the handling facilities to familiarize them with the set-up. Unlike most slaughter facilities, where livestock are put inside a building to be stunned, our stunning box is located on the outside wall of our abattoir adjacent to the holding pens. We learned through experience that getting animals to voluntarily walk calmly and quietly into a building, where the lighting, smells, noise and humidity are different, is very difficult. This transition can be a considerable psychological barrier for many animals and can cause them to stop and refuse to enter. Every time an animal stops, this slows down the slaughter process and often results in people at these facilities using electric stock prods or other fear-based techniques to force the animals to enter. We intentionally located the stun box outside of our abattoir and fitted it with a front exit gate to allow us to familiarize our animals with the handling facilities. The night before slaughter every animal is put through the stun box then back into their overnight holding pen (see picture above). This allows the animals to become familiar with the facilities and prevents them from hesitating entering the stun box the day of slaughter. By taking this extra step, our animals voluntarily enter the stun box without coercion or force.
The morning of the slaughter, we prepare our facility and wait for the government inspector to show up. When he or she arrives, the animals are inspected for health and then the slaughter process begins. Each animal is quietly walked back through the handling system and into our stun box. Once inside the animal usually stands quietly. On one side of the stun box there is a small elevated landing that allows us to stand, quietly reach over the side of the stun box and position a captive bolt on the animal’s forehead. A captive bolt is a stunning device that has a 22 calibre charge built into the mechanism. When a charge is released it forces a long bolt through the animal’s skull and into the brain, rendering it immediately unconscious.The kill box is opened and the animal rolls onto the floor of the slaughter facility where it is hoisted up and quickly bled.
Understanding animal behaviour and implementing processes and procedures that ensure they are treated with respect from birth to slaughter is a core principle on TK Ranch. Building our own on-ranch abattoir that was designed specifically to decrease animal stress reflects our commitment to a respectful slaughter process. Third party auditing of our program from birth to slaughter by Animal Welfare Approved (https://animalwelfareapproved.us/), the most stringent and comprehensive program in North America, demonstrates our willingness to be transparent in all that we do.
WED March 15
Order cut-off is MONDAY!
See Delivery Dates Calendar
BACK IN STOCK!
Experience the breathtaking beauty of TK Ranch by following my husband Dylan's photos on Instagram. He updates the site almost daily so you can keep in touch with what is happening here. We hope to develop calendars and sell framed prints in the future — so please stay tuned.
Follow TK Ranch on Facebook
Almost every day we are posting new pictures and video of life on TK Ranch. Please connect with us on Facebook for updates and interesting food news too.
“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.”
– Wendell Berry