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A slaughterhouse or abattoir i// or meatworks is a facility where animals are killed for consumption as food products. Slaughterhouses which process meat not intended for human consumption are sometimes referred to as Knacker's yards or Knackeries.
In the United States, around nine billion animals are slaughtered every year. (this includes about 150.4 million cattle, bison, sheep, hogs, and goats and 8.9 billion chickens, turkeys, ducks, etc.; in 2009, 13,450,000 long tons (13,670,000 t) of beef were consumed in the U.S. alone. In Canada, 650 million animals are killed annually. In the European Union, the annual figure is 300 million cattle, sheep, and pigs, and four billion (an unverified number) chickens.
Slaughtering animals on a large scale poses significant logistical problems and public health requirements. Public aversion to meat packing in many cultures influences the location of slaughterhouses. In addition, some religions stipulate certain conditions for the slaughter of animals.
There has been criticism of the methods of transport, preparation, herding, and killing within some slaughterhouses, and in particular of the speed with which the slaughter is sometimes conducted. Investigations by animal welfare and animal rights groups have indicated that in some cases animals are skinned or gutted while alive and conscious. In some cases animals are driven for hundreds of miles to slaughterhouses in conditions that often result in injuries and death en route. Slaughtering animals is opposed by animal rights groups on ethical grounds.
Typically 45–50% of the animal can be turned into edible products (meat). About 5-15% is waste, and the remaining 40–45% of the animal is turned into byproducts such as leather, soaps, candles (tallow), and adhesives.
Early maps of London show numerous stockyards in the periphery of the city, where slaughter occurred in the open air. A term for such 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 prepared animals for consumption .
In her article "A Social History of the Slaughterhouse," Amy Fitzgerald argues that the slaughterhouse as a "unique institution" emerged in the eighteenth century. Prior to this, animals were “slaughtered for consumption in diverse places” (59). In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a combination of health and social concerns led “reformers” to call for the isolation and sequester of animal slaughter. These reformers were concerned with the hygene and disease as well as the effect the killing would have both on the butchers and the observers, which one critic of the time claimed “educate[d] the men in the practice of violence and cruelty, so that they seem to have no restraint on the use of it.” As a result of this tension, meat markets within the city were closed and abattoirs built outside city limits. In 1747, an ordinance in the United States “forbade people from slaughtering cattle at their home." An additional motivation for eliminating private slaughter was to allow for the careful regulation of the “morally dangerous” task of putting animals to death (60)
This new demand for concealment and regulation, combined with a continued demand for meat led to the primacy of the “slaughterhouse” as a unique site for the killing of animals for meat(59). Technical innovations catapulted the growth of the meat industry. The invention of the refrigerator car as well as expansion of the railroad allowed for feasible, safe transportation of meat (and later enabling the isolation of slaughterhouses outside of population centers). Additionally, Meat-packing millionaire [Philip Armour]’s invention of the “disassembly line” greatly increased the productivity and profit margin of industrial meatpacking businesses: “according to some, animal slaughtering became the first mass-production industry in the United States, from which Henry Ford partially adapted his conception of assembly-line production. The industry continued to expand during this period as a result of increasing demand and increased distribution possibilities” (61). This expansion has been accompanied by increased concern about the physical and mental conditions of the workers along with contreversy over the ethical and environmental implications of slaughtering animals for meat. 
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In the latter part of the 20th century, the layout and design of most U.S. slaughterhouses was influenced by the work of Dr. Temple Grandin. She suggested that reducing the stress of animals being led to slaughter may help slaughterhouse operators improve efficiency and profit. In particular she applied an 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. This design – along with the design elements of solid sides, solid crowd gate, and reduced noise at the end point – work together to encourage animals forward in the chute and to not reverse direction.
As of 2011 Grandin claimed to have designed over 54% of the slaughterhouses in the United States as well as many others around the world.
By 2010 a mobile facility the Modular Harvest System had received USDA approval. It can be moved from ranch to ranch. It consists of three trailers, one for slaughtering, one for consumable body parts and one for other body parts. Preparation of individual cuts is done at a butchery or other meat preparation facility.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (May 2011)|
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (May 2011)|
The standards and regulations governing slaughterhouses vary considerably around the world. In many countries the slaughter of animals is regulated by custom and tradition rather than by law. In the non-Western world, including the Arab world, the Indian sub-continent, etc., both forms of meat are available: one which is produced in modern mechanized slaughterhouses, and the other from local butcher shops.
In some communities[which?] animal slaughter may be controlled by religious laws, most notably halal for Muslims and kashrut for Jewish communities. These both require that the animals being slaughtered should be conscious at the point of death, and as such animals cannot be stunned prior to killing. This can cause conflicts with national regulations when a slaughterhouse adhering to the rules of religious preparation is located in some Western countries. In Islamic and Jewish law, captive bolts and other methods of pre-slaughter paralysis are generally not permissible, due to it being forbidden for an animal to be killed prior to slaughter. Various halal food authorities have more recently permitted the use of a recently developed fail-safe system of head-only stunning where the shock is less painful and non-fatal, and where it is possible to reverse the procedure and revive the animal after the shock.
In many societies,[which?] traditional cultural and religious aversion to slaughter led to prejudice against the people involved. In Japan, where the ban on slaughter of livestock for food[specify] was lifted only in the late 19th century, the newly found slaughter industry drew workers primarily from villages of burakumin, who traditionally worked in occupations relating to death (such as executioners and undertakers). In some parts of western Japan, prejudice faced by current and former residents of such areas (burakumin "hamlet people") is still a sensitive issue. Because of this, even the Japanese word for "slaughter" (屠殺 tosatsu) is deemed politically incorrect by some pressure groups as its inclusion of the kanji for "kill" (殺) supposedly portrays those who practice it in a negative manner.
Some countries[which?] have laws that exclude specific animal species or grades of animal from being slaughtered for human consumption, especially those that are taboo food. The former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee suggested in 2004 introducing legislation banning the slaughter of cows throughout India, as Hinduism holds cows as sacred and considers their slaughter unthinkable and offensive. This was often opposed on grounds of religious freedom. The slaughter of cows and the importation of beef into the nation of Nepal are strictly forbidden.
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Most countries have laws in regard to the treatment of animals at slaughterhouses. In the United States, there is the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958, a law requiring that all swine, sheep, cattle, and horses be stunned unconscious with application of a stunning device by a trained person before being hoisted up on the line. There is some debate over the enforcement of this act. This act, like those in many countries, exempts slaughter in accordance to religious law, such as kosher shechita and dhabiha halal. Most strict interpretations of kashrut require that the animal be fully sensible when its carotid artery is cut.
The novel The Jungle detailed unsanitary conditions in slaughterhouses and the meatpacking industry during the 1800s. This led directly to an investigation commissioned directly by President Theodore Roosevelt, and to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which established the Food and Drug Administration. A much larger body of regulation deals with the public health and worker safety regulation and inspection.
|This section's representation of one or more viewpoints about a controversial issue may be unbalanced or inaccurate. (April 2010)|
For her book Slaughterhouse, Gail Eisnitz, chief investigator for the Humane Farming Association (HFA), interviewed slaughterhouse workers in the U.S. who say that, because of the speed with which they are required to work, animals are routinely skinned while apparently alive, and still blinking, kicking, and shrieking. Eisnitz argues that this is not only cruel to the animals, but also dangerous for the human workers, as cows weighing several thousands of pounds thrashing around in pain are likely to kick out and debilitate anyone working near them.
According to the HFA, Eiznitz interviewed slaughterhouse workers representing over two million hours of experience, who, without exception, told her that they have beaten, strangled, boiled, and dismembered animals alive, or have failed to report those who do. The workers described the effects the violence has had on their personal lives, with several admitting to being physically abusive or taking to alcohol and other drugs.
The HFA alleges that workers are required to kill up to 1,100 hogs an hour, and end up taking their frustration out on the animals. Eisnitz interviewed one worker, who had worked in ten slaughterhouses, about pig production. He told her:
|“||Hogs get stressed out pretty easy. If you prod them too much, they have heart attacks. If you get a hog in the chute that's had the shit prodded out of him and has a heart attack or refuses to move, you take a meat hook and hook it into his bunghole. You try to do this by clipping the hipbone. Then you drag him backwards. You're dragging these hogs alive, and a lot of times the meat hook rips out of the bunghole. I've seen hams — thighs — completely ripped open. I've also seen intestines come out. If the hog collapses near the front of the chute, you shove the meat hook into his cheek and drag him forward.||”|
Over the last few decades, some research has been done toward making slaughterhouses more humane; one well-known scientist in this field is Temple Grandin.
Historically, some doubted that fish could experience pain. However, laboratory experiments have shown that fish do react to painful stimuli (e.g. injections of bee venom) in a similar way to mammals. The expansion of fish farming as well as animal welfare concerns in society has led to research into more humane and faster ways of killing fish. In large-scale operations like fish farms, stunning fish with electricity or putting them into water saturated with nitrogen so that they cannot breathe, results in death more rapidly than just taking them out of the water. For sport fishing, it is recommended that fish be killed soon after catching them by hitting them on the head followed by bleeding out, or by stabbing the brain with a sharp object (called pithing or ike jime in Japanese).
The largest slaughterhouse in the world is operated by the Smithfield Packing Company in Tar Heel, North Carolina. It is capable of butchering over 32,000 pigs a day. In the US, the majority of major meat packing plants are located in the Midwestern and High Plains regions. The Mina Slaughterhouse in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, operated by the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, has a capacity of 22,000 head of sheep per hour, equivalent to 300,000 head per day. During the Islamic Hajj religious festival period, it is the largest meat processing plant in the world employing 24,000 workers.
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