The History of Animal Protection in the United States

Beginning in the 1870s, animal protectionists saw the safeguarding of children and animals as equally important, as both were vulnerable creatures in need of protection.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

American animal protectionists from earlier centuries might seem unrecognizable today. Most ate meat. They believed in euthanasia as a humane end to creaturely suffering. They justified humanity’s kinship with animals through biblical ideas of gentle stewardship. They accepted animal la-bor as a compulsory burden of human need. Their sites of activism included urban streets, Sunday schools, church pulpits, classrooms, temperance meetings, and the transnational missionary field. Committed to animal welfare, they strove to prevent pain and suffering. Contemporary animal rights activists, by contrast, believe that animals possess the right to exist free from human use and consumption. Consequently, current activists and their scholarly associates often miss the historical significance of earlier eras of activism. A growing historiography, however, demonstrates the centrality of animal protection to major American transformations such as Protestant revivalism and reform, the growth of science and tech-nology, the rise of modern liberalism, child protectionism, and the development of American ideologies of benevolence.

Animal protection entered the American colonial record in December 1641, when the Massachusetts General Court enacted its comprehensive le-gal code, the “Body of Liberties.” Sections 92–93 prohibited “any Tirranny or Crueltie towards any bruite Creature which are usuallie kept for man’s use” and mandated periodic rest and refreshment for any “Cattel” being driven or led. Puritan animal advocates believed that cruel domin-ion was a consequence of Adam and Eve’s fall from the Garden of Eden; kindly stewardship, however, reflected their reformist ideals, thus illu-minating a long historical relationship between religion, reform, and animal protection.

Transnational Protestant revivalism and social reform in the early nineteenth century fueled the expansion of animal protectionism. In Great Brit-ain, evangelicals and abolitionists spearheaded the earliest animal protection laws (1822) and organized societies (1824), which became a blue-print for dozens of new anticruelty laws in America. Social reformers and ministers became attentive to the status of animals during the Second Great Awakening (1790–1840). Embracing a new theology of free moral agency and human perfectibility, American ministers such as Charles Grandison Finney included animal mercy in their exegeses on upright Christian conduct. New transportation networks and communications tech-nologies broadcast animal protection to far-flung audiences through classroom readers, Sunday school pamphlets, and fiction.

Antebellum abolitionists and temperance activists treated animal welfare as a barometer for human morality. Antislavery newspapers and novels, most famously Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), stressed the incidence of animal abuse among slaveholders and animal kindness among abolitionists. Many future animal welfare leaders possessed abolitionist ties, such as George Thorndike Angell, founder and president of the Massachusetts So-ciety for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Temperance advocates likewise believed that inebriates were cruel to their families and their horses. The Bands of Hope, a children’s group, stressed animal kindness as a moral complement to sobriety.

Antebellum activism and cultural thought created a foundation for a new social movement after the Civil War. The abolition of slavery and the horror of battle—documented in thousands of wartime photographs of dead soldiers and horses—brought suffering and human rights to a national audience, therefore catalyzing a national movement. Animal protectionists believed that creaturely kindness was a marker of advanced civilization, which could rectify a fractured nation and world. The penultimate moment for a new movement arrived on April 10, 1866, when the New York Leg-islature incorporated a groundbreaking state animal protection society vested with policing powers to prosecute abuse. Henry Bergh, a shipping heir, drafted the articles of incorporation of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) with the help of his influential allies, including his-torian George Bancroft and state senator Ezra Cornell. Days later, they spearheaded a powerful new state anticruelty law, which they amended in 1867 to prohibit additional forms of cruelty, including blood sports and abandonment. Bergh and his officers policed the streets wearing uniforms and badges to enforce the law.

By the 1870s SPCAs and anti-cruelty laws modeled after Bergh’s work in New York existed in most states. In the Gilded Age, activists directed their attention to the plight of domestic laboring animals in an urban, muscle-powered world—especially horses. Historians Clay McShane, Joel Tarr, and Ann Greene demonstrate the centrality of urban horses in building modern industrial America. Further, they treat horses as historical agents rather than passive conduits for a history of human ideas about animals. As the nation’s primary urban movers of machines, food, and people, horses suffered abusive drivers and overloaded haulage conditions with visible regularity. Animal protectionists also addressed the bleak system of livestock railroad transport from western rangelands to urban stockyards and slaugh-terhouses, culminating with the nation’s first federal animal welfare legislation in 1873, which mandated food, water, and rest stops every twenty-eight hours. They raided animal fights; they tried to end vivisection in laboratories and classrooms; and they routinely shot decrepit workhorses as a merciful end to suffering.

Animals were legally defined as property, but Bergh’s watershed legislation recognized cruelty as an offense to the animal itself—irrespective of ownership. Histo-rian Susan Pearson argues that these laws helped transform American liberalism—from a classical conception of rights in the negative—to augur the rise of the modern “interventionist” liberal state. Pearson contends that this positive conception of rights drew animal protectionists into child protection in the 1870s. Bergh’s chief counsel, Elbridge Gerry, founded the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1874 after he secured the arrest and conviction of an abusive foster mother for felonious assault. Animal protectionists across the nation subsequently instituted amalgamated “humane societies,” which safeguarded animals and children under a singular protective fold, positing that helpless “beasts and babes” had a right to protection because they could suffer. Viewed within an existing system of subordinate relations, the right to protection did not confer an automatic right to equality. Nonetheless, humane activists established a histor-ical precedent for future generations of animal rights activists because they placed animals on a legal continuum with vulnerable human beings.

The majority of animal protectionists were affluent, nativeborn Euro-American Protestants. Men typically led SPCAs and patrolled the streets as officers, while women generally worked behind the scenes using moral suasion—raising funds, writing appeals, and coordinating educational activities. Keeping with prevailing ideologies of respectable white womanhood, Caroline Earle White secured a state charter for the founding of the Pennsylvania SPCA in 1867 but refused to seek election as the organization’s first president. She also founded the American Anti-vivisection Association in 1883 but delayed passage of its incorporation until she and her female colleagues could find a man willing to serve as president.
Some women, however, readily assumed leadership positions when they founded their own organizations. In 1869 White co-created the Women’s Branch of the Pennsylvania SPCA and served as its first president. In 1890 Women’s Branch leader Mary Frances Lovell became national superintendent of the Department of Mercy, an animal welfare wing in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The Women’s Branch pioneered municipal stray canine reform. In an era before vac-cines and sterilization, local dogcatchers staged massive summertime roundups in which strays were shot or violently thrown into crowded wagons and killed at the pound. The Women’s Branch instituted new humane capture methods, and they transformed Philadelphia’s municipal pound into a humane “shelter”, where dogs received regular care. Euthanasia, when necessary, occurred in a separate room using gas, out of view from other dogs. Historian Bernard Unti observes that women sheltering leaders typically sought no powers of arrest in their state charters because their work with strays did not confront animal abusers directly. Owing to pressure from members, mainstream SPCAs eventually incorporated stray management, sheltering, and adoption into their already stretched budgets.

With its affluent, urban, native-born Protestant base, the animal protection movement faced charges of exclusion and elitism—especially because teamsters and other targets of prosecution were often immigrants and people of color whose economic survival depended on animal muscle. In a pluralistic society, many humane activists viewed their own classed and culturally contingent ideals of kindness as universal when denouncing animal practices different than their own, such as ko-sher slaughter. They believed that animal kindness was a manifestation of higher civilization at home and in the overseas empire after the Spanish-American War. Interactions with animals, consequently, were often a flashpoint for conflict. Filipinos, Cubans, and Puerto Ricans flatly rejected U.S. anti-cockfighting laws as an oppressive colonial intrusion into indigenous leisure practices.

Some scholars, most notably Steven Wise, argue that certain animals (such as this lowland gorilla pictured here) possess legal personhood, owing to their superior cognitive abilities. photo by Ryan Vaarsi

Nonetheless, the animal protection movement was not a wholesale project of policing. Animal advocates preferred prevention over prosecution. Children’s peda-gogy became an institutionalized arm of the movement in 1889 when George Angell founded the American Humane Education Society (AHES) as the centerpiece of his holistic “gospel of kindness”. In the South, several African American ministers, educators, and temperance activists served as AHES field secretaries. They staged meetings in black schools and churches to preach a conservative message of animal mercy, self-help, and racial uplift. They traveled widely by car, which represented a potentially dangerous show of black upward mobility in the rural Jim Crow South, especially when their lectures discussed exploitative practices such as debt peonage and sharecropping. The Massachusetts SPCA openly denounced human rights abuses, as well as American militarism overseas. Yet the organiza-tion embraced moral expansionism when sponsoring American missionaries, who integrated humane education curricula into their evangelical activities across the world.

With the growth of motor power during the 1910s, fewer laboring animals populated American cities. SPCAs staged nostalgic workhorse parades as a tribute to equine service and to raise funds for new comfortable retirement farms. In 1916 the American Humane Association founded the American Red Star Animal Relief to aid American warhorses, mules, and donkeys during World War I. The organization’s fundraising pleas reminded donors that equines performed invaluable labor in impenetrable terrain despite the ascendancy of motorization. After the armistice, global horse markets collapsed and American warhorses were auctioned off in Europe because trans-Atlantic transport was cost prohibitive in an age of impending obsolescence. While equines remained an important source of agricultural la-bor, the expanding dominance of motorization changed the scope and direction of American animal protectionism.

Animal advocates increasingly viewed animal performances, long a staple of popular entertainment, as unethical. In 1918 the Massachusetts SPCA founded the Jack London Club in memory of the late author, who condemned animal entertainments. People joined by walking out of an animal show and sending a postcard to the Massachusetts SPCA with the details. While the organization had no immediate legislative impact, it represented a harbinger of activism to come in a motorized world.

During the twentieth century, slaughterhouse reform and antivivisectionism remained important activist sites. Yet pets, especially dogs and cats, escalated as sub-jects of protection. Historian Katherine Grier contends that the growth of a consumer culture of pet keeping, alongside the development of sulfonamides, parasite control, and antibiotics in the 1930s and 1940s, enabled people and their pets to live longer, healthier lives together in closer proximity. Attitudes towards cats, perhaps, changed the most. In the nineteenth century, some animal protectionists maligned the cat as a semi-wild killer of cherished songbirds. Medical advances and new consumer products, such as cat litter in 1947, brought cats indoors. By the mid-twentieth century, dogs, cats, and sheltering dominated animal protection-ism.

The coalition of movements dedicated to moral uplift that had given animal protection its interconnected human and animal agenda eventually fractured, portend-ing an almost singular focus on animals. The professionalization of social work during the Progressive Era cleaved the earlier union of child and animal protec-tionists into separate fields. The repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933 dissolved the temperance movement—a longstanding stalwart ally. Gradual seculari-zation also transformed animal protection. Earlier generations of activists forged alliances with religious leaders, but mid-century humane periodicals focused on celebrity animal lovers in media and politics. While the movement’s mainline Protestant founders believed in biblical stewardship, their descendants embraced Darwinism.

Energized by the social justice movements of the 1960s and 1970s, animal protection evolved into two distinct but overlapping movements. Animal welfare groups, such as the ASPCA, remained focused on sheltering, adoption, and the prevention of suffering. In 1975 utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer published Animal Lib-eration, which was immediately hailed as a “bible” for an emergent animal rights movement. Singer argued that sentient creatures have a right to “equal consid-eration” because they can suffer and considered “speciesism” to be a form of discrimination akin to racism and sexism. This claim, however, was rejected by many civil rights groups, who argued that it trivialized their social justice struggles. Singer, like most animal rights writers, supported veganism in an age when facto-ry-like Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations have replaced pasture farming. Yet some activists, such as philosopher Tom Regan, concluded that Animal Liber-ation’s utilitarian call to minimize suffering was ultimately too conservative or “welfarist.” In 1983 Regan applied deontology—a branch of philosophy that ex-plores moral duty—to animals. His book, The Case for Animal Rights, contended that animals possess intrinsic moral rights as individual “subjects of a life” with complex feelings and experiences that extend beyond their ability to suffer.

Paradoxically, vivisection has unwittingly validated the newest frontier in animal protection in the twenty-first century: legal personhood. In 2000 legal scholar Steven Wise used recent research in neuroscience and genetics in his book, Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals, to argue that great apes, ceta-ceans, elephants, and African gray parrots possess the legal right to “bodily liberty,” owing to their superior cognitive abilities. Wise founded the Nonhuman Rights Project in 2007 to take the principles of legal personhood to court. Armed with the writ of habeas corpus in state courts, Wise and his associates contend that captivity constitutes unlawful imprisonment. Suing on behalf of captive chimpanzees since 2013, Wise’s team have served as proxies for their plaintiffs to achieve legal standing in court, a strategy based on centuries of human precedent involving children, slaves, prisoners, and mentally incapacitated plaintiffs. While Wise and his colleagues have yet to prevail in court, they have received a hearing, a critical first step in a long appeals process.

The claims of the Nonhuman Rights Project for legal standing rest upon the inseparable histories of human rights and animal protection. Embedded in the history of religion, social reform, and war, early generations of American humane advocates argued that animal kindness was a form of human sanctification. They be-lieved that the status of animals was a conduit for human moral uplift. Yet with the rise of biological explanations for animal-human kinship, animal rights advo-cates have used the status of vulnerable people to argue that animals, as moral “subjects of a life,” possess the right to legal personhood. Ultimately, this shared history is simultaneously liberatory, conflictual, and entangled.

JANET M. DAVIS is an associate professor of American studies and history at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top (2002) and editor of Circus Queen and Tinker Bell: The Life of Tiny Kline (2008). Her 2016 book, The Gospel of Kindness: Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America, is reviewed on page A-12 of this issue.


Glynwood pond and farm is a lovley sight seen from a farm field

From a farmer’s point of view, soils in southeastern New York abutting Connecticut are sadly lacking in the limestones, shales, and sandstone which make central and western New York such excellent farm country. Metamorphized rather than sedimentary rock often translates into stony fields with the occasional massive boulder. This is the case in much of Putnam County, east of the Hudson River and just over 50 miles from Manhattan.

Agriculture never took off there as well as it did further north and west. Instead, commerce along the Hudson and manufacturing were important. Geological deposits throughout the river valley contain veins of magnetite iron ore. Access to these deposits, as well as trees for charcoal and steam, and water power to drive machinery, meant that from colonial times into the 19th century iron works were established along both sides of the Hudson River.

At the urging of no less a person than James Madison, the West Point Foundry was set up on the east bank of the river after the War of 1812 to improve cast iron armaments. The small town of Cold Spring (across the Hudson from West Point) was chosen as the site. It was a crucial armaments foundry during the Civil War, producing over 2000 cannon and 3,000,000 shells, employing 1400 people and even visited by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. After the war, however, as steel became more important, the iron foundry declined and ultimately went out of business in 1889.

Ken Kleinpeter, Glynwood’s vice president of operations, talks about his meat chickens

Forty years later George Perkins, a New York financier, purchased 2500 acres in Cold Spring for a country estate. Upon the 1993 death of his wife Linn it was preserved with most of the forested uplands going to make Fahnestock State Park, while the 225 acre core farm, open land, ponds and buildings went to a land trust and was leased to the non-profit Glynwood Center, endowed by the Perkins family, to aid it in working for a Hudson Valley defined by food: where farm-ers prosper, food entrepreneurs succeed, residents are nourished and visitors are inspired.

One of the most important ways Glynwood fulfills its mission is by running the Glynwood Farm, a diverse small scale farming model where young farmers learn the practical and managerial skills needed to survive. At the Farm they raise and market produce, eggs, meat chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats, cattle and pigs. All the animals are on pasture and those who need it (poultry and pigs) receive non-GMO grain supplements. Ruminants, pigs and turkeys are already Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) and the chickens are nearing approval. The Farm’s produce is certified organic, and the animals are raised organically except they do not get certified organic feed.

In charge of the animal operations at Glynwood are Ken Kleinpeter, vice president of operations, and Don Arrant, livestock manager

Ken joined Glynwood in 2005 and manages all of the agriculture activities, as well as buildings and grounds maintenance. He was a founding partner of Hollow Road Farms, the first sheep dairy operation in the United States, and later served as general manager of The Old Chatham Sheepherding Company. He also was the farm and genetics center manager for the Heritage Breeds Conservancy, and spent time in Bosnia as a USAID consultant. He holds a journalism degree from Louisiana State University.

Don Arrant is responsible for overseeing Glynwood’s diversified livestock operation. His previous farming experience includes acting as field manager at Red Wagon Organic Farm and apprenticing at Frog Belly Farm and Cure Organic Farm, all in Boulder CO. Don holds a degree in history from Earlham College.

AWA is an organization that audits and certifies family farms that use high-welfare methods of raising animals on pasture or range. The farms then can use the organization’s certification in marketing their animal products. AWA standards and helpful fact sheets on particular issues are available at www.animalwelfareapproved.org.

Among other things, Animal Welfare Approved:
• requires animals to be raised on pasture or range
• prohibits dual production (some animals AWA approved and some not)
• awards approval only to family farmers
• charges no fees to participating farmers
• incorporates comprehensive standards for high welfare farming

Animal Welfare Approved standards try to address every aspect of each species’ lifecycle needs from birth to death and works diligently to maintain a farm’s ability to be economically viable. AWA has standards for all commonly domesticated farmed animals. A number of exotic species are managed for meat and fiber in this country but AWA will only consider accrediting other species if they are indigenous to the country where they are being produced. Currently the only uncommon species they will approve in the US is Bison.

AWA will not consider the following non-indigenous species in the US: Yak, Water Buffalo, Ratites (Ostriches, Rheas, Emus), Llamas and Alpacas, Beefalo

Glynwood’s certification by AWA was initiated because a major AWA funder, the Grace Communications Foundation, is also a supporter of Glynwood. But being able to meet the standards is important to the mission of the farm, showing that high standards of stewardship and economic viability can go together. Ken and Don are generally supportive of AWA standards as workable, although they have some quibbles.

“I don’t know the other animal welfare certification organizations,” says Ken, “so I can’t really compare AWA to them. Most AWA standards are reasonable, but a few I have trouble with. For example, for goats, they have a square foot requirement which is fine. But you also have to build platforms for the goats to play on. (AWA Goat Standard 8.1.25 ‘When goats are off pasture, raised platforms must be provided.’) Now I’ve set some broken legs on goats from jumping off the platform. But I can live with that.

“I also don’t really have any issues with their standards on pigs or cattle or poultry,” he continues. “My only issue with the chickens is that they recommend against using [but do not prohibit – ed.] very productive breeds. They define that as varieties exceeding 280 eggs per laying cycle. We have managed highly pro-ductive layers here for years and if you feed them right and they are roaming they are just as healthy as any other chicken.”

Concerning the sheep, however, Ken does have one complaint with AWA standards – tail docking.

“The sheep requirements won’t let you dock the tail,” he says, “even of ewes that you are going to save as replacement stock. If you have long tails on sheep they get very wooly, and if they are on pasture and have the slightest loose manure on them because of green grass diarrhea, you have a much higher chance of fly strike. Fly strike happens when blowflies lay their eggs in the manure adhering to an animal. Those maggots work their way to the skin and then start consuming their way inward. Fly strike is hard to spot early, but easy to spot later when the ewe’s whole rear end is infested and the animal is in great distress – hundreds of thousands of maggots are eating her alive.

Meat birds relax in shade of shelters during the heat of the day.
Apple trees surround the area.

“When you say that to AWA,” he continues, “they reply: ‘Oh, you just have to bring them in a few times in the summer and crutch them’ (shave their rear ends – ed.) That is fine except that your whole plan is to avoid stress on an animal. To handle animals 3 or 4 times a summer, to crutch them, is stressful on the sheep, the people, and our time and labor. Our sheep are scattered all over everywhere. You are telling me it is less stressful to haul a sheep in 3 or 4 times a summer, hold them down, shave their rear ends –doing that, as opposed to taking one second when they are babies, and docking their tails and then it’s done? Having to deal with fly strike is not more humane than docking the tail when they are young.”

The AWA standard on this at 5.9.3 says simply ‘Tail docking is prohibited’. When I looked up ‘tail docking’ on the ‘Standards and Program Definitions’ web page, however, I saw that it reads: ‘The removal of all or part of the tail. This practice is prohibited under Animal Welfare Approved standards, however sheep farmers who meet all other Animal Welfare Approved standards may apply for a derogation to this standard while they work towards the goal of no tail docking.’

Ken adheres to the AWA standard, anyway, and Glynwood has not applied for derogation.

Regarding parasites among lambs on pasture, Ken feels that the AWA standards are quite reasonable.

Layers in poultry net with wagons

“We move them every two or three days,” he says. We try to work around the parasite cycle. After a certain amount of time, the eggs that the parasites are putting down will hatch and can re-infect the sheep. So you want to get them out of that pasture before that happens. You are never going to be perfect. Parasites are not stupid. But you can certainly reduce the parasite load with smart management. Young animals are much more susceptible to being badly parasitized than mature ones. These were all born this year in February, mostly.
“AWA does allow some wormers,” he continues. “Even the organic standards allow some. AWA calls for the primary method of managing parasites to be pasture management, which is perfectly proper. After that, wormers are allowed if they are not organophosphates or similar products. And of course fecal samples must be taken at least annually to assess how well you are doing.

Of course, like much of western New England and eastern New York, Glynwood has lots of pasture that is difficult to maintain. It is hilly and rocky, soils are poor and want to go back to forest. But the farm needs less forest and more open land.

“You can’t mow it, you can’t do anything here but graze some goats,” asserts Ken about some of his brushy areas. “Twenty years ago this was all open pasture, for cattle, and managed by a crew of landscapers because the cattle couldn’t keep it all in grass. But that cost a lot of money, to maintain it. A lot of it was hand work. You can’t brush-hog this stuff.”

Lambs graze in electronet fencing

The goats are contained, mostly, with a 42 inch electronet fence, powered by a battery and solar charger. Water is brought out on a truck. The goats are primarily to keep the land open and the invasive species down, but the farm has found a steady market for goat meat – not only ethnics but suddenly it is fashionable with the chefs in New York City! At Glynwood they usually wait 18 months for a goat to grow to sale size, however, as opposed to lambs that can be ready in 8 months.
The farm raises both layers and meat chickens. As AWA standards require, both are out in the open on pasture when the weather permits. The meat birds are in slightly shorter versions of the lamb and goat electronet. Their yard is in the orchard and contains the shelters where they spend the night and also can hang out in the shade on sunny days. The shelters are moved every day, advancing through the yard, and the yard is moved every few days when fresh shelter locations are no longer available.

Ken has found the pasture yards are excellent at keeping out 4-footed predators, but not so much the winged ones.

Eviscerating chickens using the on-farm exemption.

“We have problems with hawks and owls, but that is a cost of doing business if the chickens have to be free ranging” he sighs. “We use the electronet fence so we rarely lose birds to ground predators, but we lose them to other birds. We started putting chickens in at night because the worst losses we got were in the early morning from owls. They were coming at dawn and really killing us. So after dark everyday someone has to put the birds in.”

One other downside of open pastures is that the feed and water is kept there, not in the moving shelters. Which means that wild birds are often coming for break-fast, lunch and dinner. Ken estimates that sometimes he is feeding 100 times as many wild birds as domestic ones!

The layers are similarly contained in yards, with wheeled Conestoga wagons, containing their egg boxes and required roosts, for housing. Ken brings the layers out gradually from their winter barn through a series of yards.

AWA is happy with the farm’s poultry-raising system, and Ken is happy with their standards.

“They care about having enough ventilation, space to move around, roosts, etc.” he relates. “I don’t find those standards unreasonable.

“We are taking steps toward completing our AWA certification for slaughter of poultry,” he continues. “We are not AWA certified for our slaughter yet because we don’t have the captive bolt system they want us to use for stunning. It costs $300.”

During my visit the farm was processing a batch of birds in a room in one of their buildings. They slaughter under the federal on-farm exemption so that it doesn’t require a USDA inspector, and compost the guts, heads, feet and feathers.

Don Arrant at the chicken processing work

“You can do up to a thousand birds under that exemption,” explains Ken, “but you can only sell them from your own farm. You can’t put them in a store. If we were to be state licensed for slaughter, we would need two rooms, one for killing, scalding and plucking, and one for eviscerating. We have a walk-in cooler here in the processing building, and a walk-in freezer in another building just a few steps away.”

The captive bolt equipment the AWA requires is a smaller version of that used to kill large animals. Driven by either an explosive cartridge or compressed air, a metal ‘bolt’ is driven into the head of the animal a certain distance, but does not fully leave the device (thus is ‘captive’) and is reused. Although the device often kills the animal instantly, its purpose is to stun and cause immediate unconsciousness, avoiding any sensation of pain. The bird’s neck is then dislocated or cut to ensure death.

“I have the paperwork from AWA,” says Don. “We need to get the device and meet with them to inspect it. It is used for cows and pigs for the most part, large an-imals, but they have a small one for poultry. It runs off air pressure or a CO2 cartridge. You put it right against the animal’s head and the charge sends the bolt into the brain. It is supposed to be instantaneous, as opposed to cutting the head off, which involves some pain.”

“What we have done,” adds Ken, “is use a very sharp knife to sever the jugular vein, but not the windpipe. That way they bleed to death in a pretty peaceful way. But if you sever the windpipe they can no longer breathe and they start to panic and flop around.”

A detailed AWA fact sheet on poultry slaughter is available at: www.animalwelfareapproved.org