Evaluation of Methods of Restraint for holding (fixation) of Cattle,Calves, and Sheep for kosher and halal slaughter

by Temple Grandin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Dept. of Animal Science
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO, 80523

(Updated August 2017)

There are two animal welfare issues when religious slaughter is done without stunning. The first concern is the welfare issue associated with the throat cut and the second issue is how the animal is held in position for the procedure. These are two separate issues. This document will be limited to the issue of how the animal is held. The methods used to hold the animal range from excellent to painful and highly stressful. It is my opinion that stressful restraint methods are the greatest concern.

An acceptable restraint method must be able to pass a performance based animal welfare audit. For cattle and calves 95% of the animals must be silent and not vocalize (moo or bellow) during entry into the holding device and the ENTIRE time they are in the device prior to the throat cut. Vocalization is an indicator of stress in cattle during restraint (Dunn 1990). Vocalization scoring does not work for sheep. When sheep are injured they do not vocalize (baa baa). Cattle vocalize in response to an aversive event such as electric prods, excessive pressure from a restraint device, pinching or slipping and falling (Grandin 1998). For both cattle and sheep, 99% of the animals must be able to be handled with out falling down. Seventy five percent of the cattle and calves must be able to be moved into the restraint device with no electric prod. For sheep the use of electric prods is not recommended.

All restraint devices for both conventional and religious slaughter should have the following features to reduce stress.

  1. Non slip flooring in the leadup race and in the restraint device. Animals panic when they start slipping.

  2. Pressure limiting devices on all parts of the device that press against the any part of the animal. Excessive pressure can cause struggling in both species and vocalization (mooing or bellowing ) in cattle or calves. If the bovine vocalizes in direct response to application of either head or body restraint it is either too tight or it is being pinched by a sharpedge.
  3. If the restrainer is powered by hydraulics the pressure relief valves must be set so that cattle or calves do not vocalize wheh the control levers are held down and the pressure relief valve allows the fluid to bypass back to the reservoir. On hydraulic and pneumatic powered restrainers the head holder, body restraint and rear pusher gate will need to be on separate circuits that are set at a lighter maximum pressure than other parts such as heavy entrance and exit gates. Depending on the design some hydraulic systems will need to have three separate circuits to prevent excessive pressure from being applied to the animal. On pneumatic powered systems pressure can be limited by using smaller diameter cylinders. A well designed restrainer must not be totally dependent on operator skill to limit the maximum pressure that can be applied to an animal.

  4. Use the concept of optimum pressure. A restraint device must hold an animal tight enough to make it feel held, but not so tight that it causes struggling or vocalization, A common mistake is to apply too much pressure.

  5. Moving parts of a restraint device should move with a steady motion. Sudden jerky motion scares the animals. On hydraulic and pneumatic powered equipment adjustable flow controls should be installed to control the speed that different parts of the restraint device move. Control valves should have good throttling ability so that the operator has control over the speed of movement.(Grandin 1992).

  6. Remove distractions that cause animals to balk and refuse to move into the restrainer. Animals are afraid of seeing people up ahead, air drafts blowing towards them, dark places and reflections. More information is in Grandin 1996, 2000). Simple changes such as adding a light, moving a lamp and installing shields to block the animals vision are often all that is needed.

Welfare Ranking of Restraint Devices

Excellent Animal held in an upright position. Research with sheep indicates that animals prefer being held in an upright position. Rushen (1986) reported that when sheep were forced to make repeated choices between upright or inverted restraint they favored upright restraint.
Conditional Acceptable Rotating restraint box that inverts the animal onto its back. It must have a large adjustable side to support the body and prevent struggling or vocalization during rotation. This class of rotating restrainers would include the Facomia pen and other similar devices. An animal must have its throat cut within 10 seconds after inversion. Rotating boxes are for religious slaughter only.
Not Acceptable Rotating box with no adjustable side to provide body support. This would include the old fashioned Weinberg casting pen. Dunn (1990) found that cattle held on their backs in the old fashioned Weinberg for 103 seconds had significantly higher cortisol and vocalization rates compared to cattle held in an upright restrainer. Old fashioned Weinberg's could be retrofitted with an adjustable side.
Serious Problem; Automatic FAILED AUDIT The following methods of restraint should never be used for conscious animals that are still sensible.

  1. Shackle and hoist and suspension by the leg or legs.
  2. Shackle and drag by the legs and then roll the animal onto its back.
  3. Trip floor boxes that cause the animal to fall down with the use of a slanted floor or other device.
  4. Leg clamping rotating boxes.

When plant management is committed to good animal welfare, religious slaughter practices can be greatly improved. If plant management is poor, animal welfare will be poor, even if the plant has the best equipment. Maintaining high standards requires continous measurement of handling procedures. Handling and restraint should be continuously monitored using the follow outcome measures:


Dunn, CS. 1990. Stress reactions of cattle undergoing ritual slaughter using two methods of restraint, Veterinary Record, 1,26:522-525.

Grandin, T. 2013. Making slaughter houses more humane for cattle, pigs, and sheep. Annual Review of Animal Biosciences. 1:491-512. Posted on this website: www.grandin.com.

Grandin, T. 2012. Developing measures to audit welfare of cattle and pigs at slaughter. Animal Welfare. 21:351-356.

Grandin, T. 2000. Livestock Handling and Transport, CABI International. Wallingford, Oxon, UK.

Grandin, T. 1998. The feasibility of using vocalization scoring as an indicator of poor welfare during slaughter, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 56:121-128.

Grandin, T. 1994. Euthanasia and slaughter of livestock, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Assn. 204:1354-1360.

Grandin, T. 1992. Observations of cattle restraint devices for stunning and slaughtering, Animal Welfare, 1:85-91.

NAMI. 2017. Recommended animal handling guidelines and audit guide. North American Meat Institute, Washington,D.C. www.animalhandling.org

Rushen, J. 1936. Aversion of sheep for handling treatments, Paired choice studies, Applied Animal Behavior Science, 16:360-370.

State of Israel Ministry of Agriculture. 2017. Guidelines for humane kosher slaughter. 300417 Document. Veterinary Services and Animal Health. Beit Dagan, 50250, Israel.

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