Sunday, February 8, 2009

Slaughter and the farm

Killing on the premises
One of the things that varies from farm to farm is whether the farmer is OK with you killing the animal on premise. I've run across this several times in my own experience, but most of that centers around particular cultural practices with respect to slaughtering pigs.

Sometimes this is covered by the farmer just taking care of the job for you; and selling you the cleaned animal. But theres a segment of the population that wants to slaughter their own animal, for cultural, religious or culinary reasons. For instance, if your culture places a high value on a part of the animal that is difficult to get in a traditional store, like the blood or the lungs, a doing your own farm kill is a good way to procure that.

Each culture seems to have its own way of killing an animal. Some of them are based in practicality (we don't have a gun, so we use a sledgehammer) , some in religion (our religious text says it has to be done this way), some are cultural (we've always done it this way).

Killed by surprise
Basically I'd prefer that the animal be killed by surprise. I try hard to mimic the actions on the animals last day on every day previous, so there's no real change in routine on the day it has to go. But when it does go, I want the animal to OUT as fast as I can do it or have it arranged to be done. In Washington, even the method of slaughter is regulated. There are only 4 legal ways to kill an animal.

Religious restriction on slaughter
I was buying some turkey breeding stock from another local farmer and while we were loading the turkeys we talked a bit about the other livestock he had, and he mentioned that he was a Jehovah's Witness, and that he was prohibited from eating the blood or using the blood. I asked how he handled that when people wanted to collect the blood for their cultural or religious reasons? His solution was to sell the whole, live animal and tell them to take it off the premises before they did anything. That's an example of a religious based slaughter restriction. He seemed to be OK with the idea of discarding the blood, and you could kill there if you did not collect it.

I'll sell you a goat, but...
Mark, a local farmer who runs a couple of hundred goats, doesn't want the kill on his farm. Goats are particularly problematic because the cultures that eat a lot of goat have a preferred kill method that seems slow to most americans. So his solution is to require the animal purchaser to leave the premises. Some of his customers kill their goats on the road in front of his farm. I really don't see a difference myself.

It's their religion, but I sure do hate holding the animal when...
Ed, a fellow who raises sheep, told me that while he's tolerant of other religions he hates the chore of holding a sheep for the customer to slaughter. Many of the farms are really one man or one family operations, and when it comes down to doing the deed, you might have to help.

Humane slaughter law
The state of Washington is interested in regulating slaughter methods. You cannot, for instance, legally kill an animal with a sledgehammer or a regular hammer. But apparently if your religion prescribes a particular way of killing an animal, that's exempted.

There's an argument that having these sorts of broad exemptions actually results in the unequal protection of law.

Washington state law regarding slaughter of non-poultry
The law that seems to control most of the slaughter in Washington state, with respect to uninspected meat, can be found here.

My opinion on that is that you can slaughter animals you own for your own consumption, you can slaughter animals you've purchased either at your own premises, or at the producers premise. You can slaughter 4h animals lots of places (special exemption for animals purchased from 4h auctions). So farms that want you to carry the animals off their premises aren't legally required to do that, but do so by farmers preference.

Washington state law regarding slaughter of poultry
Washington state law regulating the permit for slaughtering 1,000 chickens or less per year.
Handbook to help you apply for that permit.

None of this applies to sale of individual cuts, or less than the half of an animal
All of what I've said is related to the sale of whole poultry or whole or half meat (beef, lamb, pork, goat, etc) . I do not cover what you have to do to sell cuts of meat to the public; that's USDA slaughter, and that's a different set of laws and standards.

DISCLAIMER I am not an attorney. This entry talks about my opinions only regarding laws related to slaughter and points you to the actual text of the laws I'm referring to. You should consult an attorney if you have questions about the law.

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