Do Cows Feel Pain When Slaughtered?


It’s great that you’re trying to learn more about how animals are treated before being killed for food.

In most cultures, we’re shielded from this process, and killing animals for meat is “normal.”

Here, we’ll ignore the treatment of animals up until the time of slaughter, and I’ll go over how cows are typically killed.

Are Cows Killed Humanely? (i.e. Is it fast and painless?)

Most animals are slaughtered the same way, cows included.

In theory, they should not feel pain when killed.

In the United States, for example, the slaughter process is regulated by the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act.

Here’s an excerpt from it:

(a) in the case of cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep, swine, and other livestock, all animals are rendered insensible to pain by a single blow or gunshot or an electrical, chemical or other means that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut;

If all is done properly, they will not feel pain.

This is the standard practice in most Western countries, but third-world countries are typically less stringent on what’s allowed.

Is It Really Humane?

This is a tough question to answer because everyone has a different definition of humane.

Personally, I associate the term with dignity. A humane death for me would be something like an injection.

But for cows, they are stunned (as mentioned above), and then strung upside down with hundreds or thousands of other cows. Typically, their throat will be cut to drain their blood and kill them.

That might be humane to you, but it’s not to me. Decide for yourself.

Do Cows Feel Pain In PRACTICE?

As we said, they shouldn’t feel pain in theory.

But in reality, you have near-minimum wage workers killing thousands of cows a day in huge factories.

Procedures aren’t always followed correctly, like in any business, and some cows do feel pain while being killed.

But I can’t give you a specific number.

You can go to YouTube and find footage of cows in pain at slaughterhouses, and it’s pretty messed up to watch.

I won’t link any videos here, but if you can’t find them, let me know in the comments and I’ll send you links to some.

However, if you’re planning on continuing to eat beef, I believe you should watch what goes on in slaughterhouses.

Summary: In theory, cows should not feel pain when slaughtered. In practice, there’s video evidence that procedure isn’t always followed correctly and that some cows do suffer.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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