Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A slaughterhouse, also called an abattoir (from the French word abattre meaning "to strike down"), is a facility where farm animals are killed and processed into meat products. The animals most commonly found at a slaughterhouse include cattle (beef & veal), sheep (lamb & mutton), pigs (pork), poultry and horses.
Many people find the subject of animal slaughter to be very unpleasant and prefer not to know the details of what goes on inside a slaughterhouse. In their turn, most slaughterhouses are happy to conceal the details of the operations to avoid controversy. As such, in the West, the connection between packaged meat products in the supermarket and the live animals they are derived from is obscured.
Nevertheless, the majority of people in the West eat meat every day, so slaughterhouses are required to efficiently provide meat products on an industrial scale. At the same time, most countries have laws and regulations that control the slaughter of animals, both for human consumption and for other purposes. Therefore, the operation of slaughterhouses is usually independently monitored by government agencies, most especially to ensure that standards of hygiene are maintained.
Conversely, animal rights groups and some vegetarians prefer to highlight the practices inside a slaughterhouse - in part to expose and correct inhumane treatment of animals where it occurs, but also to encourage people to face up to the reality of meat production, which may lead to more people's choosing a meat-free or reduced-meat diet. Some animal-rights advocates regard the activities performed in slaughterhouses as cruel or unconscionable.
- Animals are received by truck from a ranch, farm, or feedlot.
- Animals are herded into a holding pen.
- Animal is 'stunned ' unconscious (method varies).
- Animals are hung by hind legs on processing line.
- A main artery is cut, the animal's blood drains out and it dies.
- Animal's hide/skin/plumage is removed.
- Carcass is inspected by a representative of the Food Safety Inspection Service (US only).
- Carcass is cut apart and the body parts separated.
- Meat cuts are quickly chilled to prevent the growth of microorganisms and to reduce meat deterioration while the meat awaits market demand for its distribution.
- The remaining carcass may be further processed to extract any residual traces of meat, usually termed mechanically recovered meat, which may be used for human or animal consumption.
- Material not destined for human consumption is sent to a rendering plant.
- The meat is transported to distribution centers that distribute to local retail markets.
In the later half of the 20th century, the layout and design of most US slaughterhouses has been significantly influenced by the work of Dr. Temple Grandin. Grandin is also well known for being autistic and it was a fascination with patterns and flow that first led her to redesign the layout of cattle holding pens.
Grandin's primary objective was to reduce the stress and suffering of animals being led to slaughter. In particular she applied an intuitive understanding of animal psychology to design pens and corrals which funnel a herd of animals arriving at a slaughterhouse into a single file ready for slaughter. Her corrals employ long sweeping curves so that each animal is prevented from seeing what lies ahead and just concentrates on the hind quarters of the animal in front of it.
Grandin now claims to have designed over 50% of the slaughterhouses in the United States as well as many other slaughterhouses around the world.
The standards and regulations governing slaughterhouses vary considerably around the world. In many countries the slaughter of animals is virtually unregulated.
In some communities animal slaughter may be controlled by religious laws, most notably halal for Muslims and kosher for Jewish communities. These both require that the animals being slaughtered should be conscious at the point of death, as such animals cannot be stunned prior to killing. This can cause conflicts with individual national regulations when a slaughterhouse adhering to the rules of kosher preparation is located in some western countries.
Some countries have laws which exclude specific animal species or grades of animal from being slaughtered for human consumption. The Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, a self-proclaimed strict vegetarian, suggested in 2004 introducing legislation banning the slaughter of cows throughout India, where the cow is a sacred animal to Hindus, for whom the slaughter of one is unthinkable. The slaughter of cows and the importation of beef into the nation of Nepal, are strictly forbidden under Nepalese law.
An older term for an open-air slaughterhouse is a "shambles"; there are streets named "The Shambles" in some English towns (e.g. Worcester, York) which got their name from having been the site on which butchers killed and dressed animals for consumption. In those days there were no sanitary facilites or hygiene laws as known today, and guts, offal and blood were chucked into a runnel down the middle of the street or open space where the butchering was carried out. Picking one's way through the resulting mess must have been unpleasant - but then, all forms of household waste were commonly thrown in the street anyway, so perhaps it was less disgusting to the people of that age than it would be to us. You can easily see why we refer to any scene of total disorganisation and mess as "a shambles". The word is probably derived from Saxon word "Fleshammels", meaning "street of the butchers".
- Grandin's official site detailing her design principles for slaughterhouses, as well as summarising many of the regulations affecting slaughter in the United States.
- Meet Your Meat a PETA produced slaughterhouse tour narrated by Alec Baldwin
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