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More humane? Zurich farmer pilots DIY slaughter method

The canton Zurich farmer argues that his slaughter method is less stressful for the animals and gives tastier beef


A farmer in canton Zurich has been granted temporary permission to slaughter cows on his own land, rather than taking them to a slaughterhouse. He argues this is less stressful for the animals and results in better quality beef.

Nils Müller, an organic farmer of 16 cows in Küsnacht, canton Zurich, argues that on-site slaughter is less stressful for cows, because it eliminates the journey from pasture to abattoir. 

Müller worked with Eric Meili, a consultant from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) to obtain permission from the Cantonal Veterinary Office of Zurich to slaughter ten cows using this method. If each procedure is approved by a cantonal vet, Müller could win full permission to use this method on his farm. 

Meili told that the biggest problem with traditional abattoir slaughter is the journey, rather than the destination: separation from the herd and motor transportation can cause a cow a great deal of stress.  

“It is pure animal protection – that is the first factor,” he said. “Another reason is that stress has been proven to negatively affect the quality of beef.”

The method in question involves using a small-bore rifle with a laser sight to deliver a shot at close range, minimising the risk of the bullet ricocheting. To adhere to food safety regulations, the carcass must be drained of blood within 90 seconds, and then delivered to a specialised facility for rendering. 

With the support of lawyers, Müller and Meili were able to demonstrate that their slaughter method adhered to legal guidelines for food safety and animal treatment. However, others are sceptical of this approach.

Thomas Jäggi of the Swiss Farmer’s Union was quoted by the Tages-Anzeigerexternal link on Tuesday as saying that the method is “too complicated and too expensive” to be implemented on a large scale. 

Swiss Animal Protection (SAP) has also voiced its concerns about the safety of the method from an animal rights perspective: Hansueli Huber told the Tages-Anzeiger that the driving time to a slaughterhouse within Switzerland does not take more than six hours. 

This is the first time that this method has been approved in Switzerland, although in Germany, farmers have been allowed to apply for permission to slaughter their own cows since 2012.

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