Raising and Slaughtering Livestock: Legal and Practical Considerations


Vermont Farmer With His Cows 

For the uninitiated, slaughtering animals is a repulsive thought. When we first raised and slaughtered our own animals, we feared that our 5-year-old daughter would be traumatized. After the chickens’ heads were removed, she giggled.

This reminded me of how routine such a practice was to my Vermont grandmothers, both of whom were raised on farms. Our forebears thought nothing of it — and neither would people today if we were not so alienated from our own food production.

But this is not to say that we should be unfeeling about our animals. Humane treatment is a moral imperative, and also ensures meat quality: stressing animals at slaughter time compromises the meat in numerous ways — even making it inedible. (See “Effects of stress and injury on meat and by-product quality,” FAO).

When deciding whether to raise your own animals for food, there is something else that is dramatically different from our grandmothers’ times: the law.

Legal Considerations for On-Farm Slaughter

In our heavily regulated society, numerous laws now restrict whether one can even keep chickens, how close they can be to a property boundary, or how many we can own. The legal limits for livestock can be even more restrictive than for poultry. State laws and local zoning ordinances should be closely examined.

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