Humane Methods of Slaughter Act

The Humane Slaughter Act (HMSA) of 1958 was passed amid accusations of cruelty to livestock in meatpacking plants. This meant that the killing and treatment of animals to be used as meat would be completed by only using humane methods. One problem with this act was that its terms only applied to meatpacking plants that wanted to sell meat to the Federal Government. This problem was not resolved until 1978. At that time, Congress passed the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) to guarantee that the humane requirements applied to all federally inspected slaughter establishments. The act particularly addresses the requirement that cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep, goats, pigs, and other equines must not be able to feel pain at the time of slaughter.

The enforcement of HMSA is the responsibility of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which is a department of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In its 2004 report about the USDA's enforcement of HMSA, the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) determined that available FSIS records had reported 553 violations of HMSA at 272 facilities during the period between January 2007 and March 2003. Ineffective stunning (which means that animals are not made insensitive to pain quickly) was the most commonly cited violation. Other infringements included inadequate facility conditions that could result in injuries to animals as well as not providing water to animals awaiting slaughter. It is essential to note that the same report determined that the dependability of the above-cited FSIS records was questionable. This was primarily because at least 44 records were missing. In addition, almost half of the District Veterinary Medical Specialists (DVMS) interviewed reported that inspectors did not al not always document noncompliance when they should have because they were not certain about regulatory parameters.