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Humane slaughter

 
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I started a small herd of goats for meat. In my reading and researching it seems like every one butchers by cutting the jugular or stabbing the heart. The videos I have seen seem quite cruel. Is there a reason people do it like this? Will a head shot with a hand gun have some kind of draw back? It seems more humane with just a quick shot but no one seems to do it that way.
 
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Hi John, and welcome to permies!

Slitting the throat, when done quickly and cleanly, is very humane. The key is slicing through the carotid artery. This causes an immediate loss of blood to the brain, and unconsciousness happens within seconds. It looks a lot worse than it is, because of all the blood and the way that the animal will thrash and kick when systems are shutting down.

The problem with shooting, according to my homekill butcher, is that you don't have a very big target on a goat (or sheep, alpaca or other medium-size livestock), and there's a greater risk of wounding without stunning. Here most cattle are shot with a .22 and this stuns them so that the throat can be cut, but sheep and goats just get the knife.

 
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You can use a captive bolt first.

http://grandin.com/humane/captive.bolt.html
 
Phil Stevens
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I've looked on a couple of other forums and some people use a small caliber gun pointed at the back of the head and aimed toward the tip of the nose. That seems like it would work and avoids the possibility that you would have an agitated animal underneath you as you ready the throat cut.
 
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The top of a goats head is a battering ram, so especially thick.  As mentioned, small target so the shot would need to be placed well.  

One of the things not often considered when looking for "the most humane way", is the comfort of the person doing the slaughter.

Ex.  I have seen people slaughter chickens in a cone with a few swift slices to the neck, and been told this is the most humane way to do it.  I have also seen folks behead them with a hatchet, and been told that is not so humane.  However, I have seen people who are not comfortable doing with it the cone and slice method who end up not making good cuts, prolonging the process, and putting the chicken through a decidedly less than humane slaughter (not to mention really rattling the person doing the work).  If they were more comfortable swinging the hatchet, it would have gone much better for both the person and the chicken.

I would think about your goats similarly.  I don't know what your experience is with slaughter in general.  If limited, start by doing it the way you can get it done.  Over time you will learn what works best for you and the animals.
 
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JohnP, you have been given some good advice.

I just wanted to suggest that this thread might be of interest:

https://permies.com/t/2847/kitchen/Killing-butchering-Ethics-methods
 
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If you are using a .22 to stun, draw an imaginary x between the base of the ears and the eyes.  That is your target area.  As soon as the animal drops then you immediately use the knife to bleed it out.  That is the way we were taught in a college meats class and lab I took  several years ago.  
 
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The keys to humane knife-only slaughter are having a scary sharp knife, and being decisive.  If you have ever cut yourself with a very sharp knife you know that often you don't even notice the cut until you see the blood.  And even when you notice the cut by feel right away it's not as painful compared to a dull knife.  Same holds true for livestock being slaughtered.  With a properly sharp knife they just don't feel the cut as much, in part because it happens so fast.  If you do it right, and sever the carotid arteries the animal goes into shock and loses consciousness before the brain is able to register much in the way of pain.  

The decisiveness reflects what Brian Michael was mentioning.  If you are hesitant, or if you don't make that cut deep enough the animal will suffer.  So, really, the choice of knife only or gun first I believe should come down to how decisive you can be with handling the animal to get it into position, and then making the cut.  If you don't have confidence that you can get that goat off its feet and into position with a minimum of fuss, and the swiftly deliver the cut where in one fast swipe you go all the way to the spine, then you probably should go to the gun to stun it first.

If you don't have the ability to have someone that's done it before show you what to do, and you are not supremely confidant you'll be able to do it right, the first time shoot the goat to stun it, and then deliver the cut.  Knowing that your knife will do the job well will then give you the confidence to skip the gun the next time.

Remember that done right the knife only method results in the animal losing consciousness within a few seconds.  During those few seconds the pain is minimal and the stress is also minimal.  Any kicking or other thrashing more than a few seconds after the cut is death-throes and not indicative of stress, pain or suffering.  By the time those start brain death is beginning and the animal has been unconscious for probably a minute or longer.
 
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I had the same sorts of questions before doing this with two small goats (about 6-7 months old) a few years ago.

I didn't have firearms and was hearing much what others have said here...that it's not a sure bet. I had seen a mobile butcher slit throats, but worried that I lacked the skill.

I was pleased with the results of this process:

- Dug a hole for blood and the offal I wasn't going to use

- Got a Stanley Fat Max Extreme snap-off knife with new heavy duty blade

- Had a second person help hold the legs of the goat; lay it down with it's neck over the hole and keep it pinned down.

- I'm holding the goat's head with my non-dominant hand and arms, laying down next to it.

- Take a deep breath and pull strongly yet quickly across. No time to be hesitant.

The problem with this method is that the goat was in more distress than I would like, but it wasn't terrible. And other than that discomfort, I felt that it was a very clean kill. (They will make a running motion afterwards for a minute or so; this also happened when the butcher slit throats on standing goats.) It seemed to me it would be worse to try somehow to have them on their feet and mess up. I think you have to sort out what is going to work for you and your own animals to some extent.

Good luck!
 
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Terrie Schweitzer wrote:I had the same sorts of questions before doing this with two small goats (about 6-7 months old) a few years ago.

I didn't have firearms and was hearing much what others have said here...that it's not a sure bet. I had seen a mobile butcher slit throats, but worried that I lacked the skill.

I was pleased with the results of this process:

- Dug a hole for blood and the offal I wasn't going to use

- Got a Stanley Fat Max Extreme snap-off knife with new heavy duty blade

- Had a second person help hold the legs of the goat; lay it down with it's neck over the hole and keep it pinned down.

- I'm holding the goat's head with my non-dominant hand and arms, laying down next to it.

- Take a deep breath and pull strongly yet quickly across. No time to be hesitant.

The problem with this method is that the goat was in more distress than I would like, but it wasn't terrible. And other than that discomfort, I felt that it was a very clean kill. (They will make a running motion afterwards for a minute or so; this also happened when the butcher slit throats on standing goats.) It seemed to me it would be worse to try somehow to have them on their feet and mess up. I think you have to sort out what is going to work for you and your own animals to some extent.

Good luck!



Good on you for getting it done!

To help with the distress aspect there some things you can do. Holding down the legs certainly I'm sure seemed like a good idea, but what that does is ramp up the flight instinct of the animal.  Goats, sheep, etc have very limited range of motion side to side with their legs.  Once you have them on their side with all 4 feet off the ground and with no opportunity to get them back under themselves they usually will calm down and not struggle much.  Then take their head and put the forehead on the ground with their neck stretched out and facing the sky.  If you have them calm to begin with, and have practiced laying them on their side like that previously, you can sometimes get up and walk away and they will just stay there for a while.  It almost can put them into a trance like state.  

I wouldn't really bother with the hole in terms of the kill (totally fine of course for burying offal though).  It makes it harder to get the head positioned well, and the spray of blood will probably mean that a fairly small percentage of the blood will land within it anyway.  
 
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Thanks for the post on the bolt, I followed the link and it has citations to Temple Grandin, which is reassuring.

In my community we always did ritual offerings with knife, and now I have to do it on my own.  I am sad to say I didn't do such a great job with my first animal, but at least I was decisive and it could have been worse.  It was a quail. I just feel a need to shake a little trauma out of my system here.  I appreciate getting to "process."  If I ever do larger animals someday I hope I will be able to do better.

 
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Not recommending this - just reporting:
When I was a kid I used to help my dad butcher sheep - I'm no expert, but he had been doing it all his life. His method was to tie it securely at the head so it couldn't move, and then hit it with the flat backside of an ax. He hit it hard on the skull right where it joined to the neck. He was a strong guy and could swing accurately, and had the confidence to do it without hesitating - otherwise could have been a bad scene. Every sheep dropped in place with barely a twitch, then he cut the artery to bleed it out.
 
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Henry Brown wrote:Thanks for the post on the bolt, I followed the link and it has citations to Temple Grandin, which is reassuring.

In my community we always did ritual offerings with knife, and now I have to do it on my own.  I am sad to say I didn't do such a great job with my first animal, but at least I was decisive and it could have been worse.  It was a quail. I just feel a need to shake a little trauma out of my system here.  I appreciate getting to "process."  If I ever do larger animals someday I hope I will be able to do better.



First time is ALWAYS the most difficult.  You will do better each time as you learn what works well for you.

Killing isn't an easy thing for most people.  I didn't find too hard (and certainly not what I'd call enjoyable), but maybe that's more a reflection of the mental preparation I did than anything else.  I was certainly nervous, but more because I really didn't want to make the animal suffer than any hesitation about participating in killing it.  When I processed the first lamb I had a .22 loaded and close to hand just in case I felt I needed it.  I was able to do it all with the knife, but having the gun ready removed some of the nervousness.  
 
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JohnP Burke wrote:I started a small herd of goats for meat. In my reading and researching it seems like every one butchers by cutting the jugular or stabbing the heart. The videos I have seen seem quite cruel. Is there a reason people do it like this? Will a head shot with a hand gun have some kind of draw back? It seems more humane with just a quick shot but no one seems to do it that way.



I don't have much practical experience yet, but firearms and captive bolts are hard to come by in Japan so I have been researching other methods.

From what I have read, the key to a quick and almost painless kill by bleeding out (exsanguination) is cutting both carotid arteries, so cutting all the way through the neck. This works for goats because it cuts off all blood supply to the brain in one stroke so they go into shock pretty quick. This wouldn't work for cattle as they have a redundant blood supply in the spinal cord. Not sure about other animals.

From http://www.veterinaryhandbook.com.au/ContentSection.aspx?id=40



The throat cut aims to sever the carotid arteries at the level of the throat, near where the neck joins the head. It may make pathological changes in this area difficult to assess at necropsy. The best method for performing the throat cut is by fully inserting the knife just behind the angle of the jaw beneath the neck bones (Figure 9.4). A knife such as a boning knife with strong, sharp 15 cm blade, a pointed tip and a non-slip handle is essential. This method causes the carotid arteries to be cut during insertion of the knife. An outward cut (directed ventrally) ensures the carotid arteries and jugular veins are severed and also the windpipe.



Stunning with a firearm or captive bolt can render an animal unconscious instantly and is often followed up by immediately bleeding out. Here, where these tools are hard to get, some people have used a heavy hammer to stun, then immediately bleed out with a throat cut.

This vet manual talks about humane killing methods for various animals and has an appendix at the very end with diagrams.
https://www.avma.org/sites/default/files/2020-01/2020-Euthanasia-Final-1-17-20.pdf
The diagram for goats is attached at the bottom of this post.


How to tell of the animal is unconscious (insensible) between stunning and killing:

Temple Grandin's site has a great overview: https://www.grandin.com/humane/insensibility.html#:~:text=It%20will%20look%20like%20a,they%20are%20vibrating%20(nystagmus).

A quick summary:

List 1: Captive Bolt or Gunshot - Methods that physically damage the brain. Signs of properly stunned insensible (unconscious) animals - primary indicators.

No eye movements and eyes open to a wide blank stare. The corneal reflex (touch the eye) natural spontaineous blinking and nystagmus (vibrating eyelid) must all be ABSENT. Verify unconsciousness by touching the eye.
No rhythmic breathing (ribcage moves in and out)
No righting reflex; no attempt to lift head or stand up
No vocalization - squeal, bellow, moo.

All four primary indicators MUST BE ABSENT in a properly stunned animal.



As others have said, it is important to choose a method that you are comfortable with and confident performing.

Also as others have mentioned, the animals will be more calm and easier to handle if they are habituated to the slaughter method by "practicing" being handled and put into position. It might be worth practicing having something near their head and touching them that resembles a gun or bolt, like a pipe, if that's what you choose.

If you are comfortable sharing your experience, please do!


bolt-placement-when-slaughtering-horned-goats.png
bolt placement when slaughtering horned goats
bolt placement when slaughtering horned goats
goat-slaughter-figure-caption.png
figure caption from the vet manual
figure caption from the vet manual
 
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Amy Arnett wrote:

From what I have read, the key to a quick and almost painless kill by bleeding out (exsanguination) is cutting both carotid arteries, so cutting all the way through the neck. This works for goats because it cuts off all blood supply to the brain in one stroke so they go into shock pretty quick. This wouldn't work for cattle as they have a redundant blood supply in the spinal cord. Not sure about other animals.

From http://www.veterinaryhandbook.com.au/ContentSection.aspx?id=40



The throat cut aims to sever the carotid arteries at the level of the throat, near where the neck joins the head. It may make pathological changes in this area difficult to assess at necropsy. The best method for performing the throat cut is by fully inserting the knife just behind the angle of the jaw beneath the neck bones (Figure 9.4). A knife such as a boning knife with strong, sharp 15 cm blade, a pointed tip and a non-slip handle is essential. This method causes the carotid arteries to be cut during insertion of the knife. An outward cut (directed ventrally) ensures the carotid arteries and jugular veins are severed and also the windpipe.



When I do it, it's more like a kosher or halal style (but without the religious ceremony, though often still a prayer).  Both methods require a slice without the tip ever puncturing the skin.  Kosher compliant knives even have a squared end rather than a sharp point.  The slice goes from the skin all the way to the spinal bones, which ensures severing of the carotids and jugulars, and trachea.  If you do it just right the cut lines up with the atlas joint which makes removal of the head really easy.

I figure if the Jews have been doing it this way for thousands of years (and Muslims for 1300 years) there is probably a good reason and it's probably got a lot of advantages over other methods.
 
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Thank you every one there is a lot of good information here.
Now I have more questions lol.
I really like the captive bolt gun because with a hand gun there is always a risk of the bullet hitting a rock and ricocheting into my foot. The question I have now is why do they say "stun" I would think a 1/4 bolt piercing the brain would kill
 
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JohnP Burke wrote:Thank you every one there is a lot of good information here.
Now I have more questions lol.
I really like the captive bolt gun because with a hand gun there is always a risk of the bullet hitting a rock and ricocheting into my foot. The question I have now is why do they say "stun" I would think a 1/4 bolt piercing the brain would kill




I don't know about goats/sheep, but the few pigs that I have shot/seen shot with a .22 and a very small shotgun(.410 with light slugs maybe?), there was no exit wound. Of course an accidental discharge or plain old miss is always a possibility, but as far as farm life goes it seems pretty safe as well as humane, and the .22 is a multipurpose, fairly affordable tool.
 
Amy Arnett
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JohnP Burke wrote:The question I have now is why do they say "stun" I would think a 1/4 bolt piercing the brain would kill



I would think so too, and they probably would die eventually just from the head wound. I guess their brains are bigger or longer than I thought and you have to account for the skin, bone and muscle on top of the brain. Looking through this pdf all about captive bolts: https://www.hsa.org.uk/downloads/publications/captiveboltstunningdownload.pdf it mentions that it is actually the impact of the brain on the skull from the force of bolt that knocks the animal out. They say it better:

Physiological Effects of Percussive Stunning

When a sharp, heavy blow is correctly applied to the skull it produces a rapid acceleration of
the head, causing the brain to impact against the inside of the skull. There is disruption of
normal electrical activity resulting from sudden, massive increase in intra-cranial pressure,
followed by an equally sudden drop in pressure. The consequent damage to the nerves and
blood vessels causes brain dysfunction and/or destruction, and impaired blood circulation.
The duration of insensibility depends on the severity of damage to the nervous tissue and
the degree to which the blood supply is reduced. In addition, there may be physical damage
to the skull or brain according to the type of stunner used, i.e. penetrative or nonpenetrative.



The document recommends bleeding the animal within 15 seconds of stunning.

a cross section showing the shortest route to the brain in goats


The online version of the document includes some videos. https://www.hsa.org.uk/effective-stunning/effective-stunning

 
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A good place other than what was said is Farmstead Meatsmith https://farmsteadmeatsmith.com/

They also have a youtube channel

 
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