On-farm killing as a method to minimize pre-slaughter stress: a qualitative analysis from Switzerland
Pre-slaughter stress is often caused during the different stages of animal handling, live transportation, stunning and dry bleeding. Such condition has a negative impact on animals and operators, meat quality and consumer satisfaction. A slaughter practice that intends to minimize pre-slaughter stress applicable to the small-scale commercial sector is on-farm killing (OFK) using the captive bolt pistol or gunshot method. A trust-based training of operators and cattle facilitates the killing process at the farm and thereby represents a viable substitute for live animal transportation. Our paper presents the results of qualitative research on the use of OFK methods after its legalization in Switzerland in 2020. Eight farms participated in this study, and results suggest that OFK methods are technically and economically viable in Switzerland. In fact, after the six-year-long pilot phase, farmers declare that OFK mitigates the stress for cattle, provides for less hazardous work and improves consumers’ preference for their meat. In this sense, OFK may serve as a contribution to alternative slaughter methods in industrial countries. Nonetheless, the dimension of the farm still represents a major constraint for the application of these methods. In fact, OFK as a replacement for live transportation is usually viable in small-scale contexts with fewer animals, shorter distances to slaughterhouses and minimal logistical challenges.