Federal Oversight

Meat plants that handle and slaughter live animals are the most regulated and inspected industry in America. Federal Humane Slaughter Act regulations are enforced by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and specify the proper treatment and humane handling of livestock slaughtered in USDA-inspected slaughter plants. The law’s provisions are numerous and include requirements that livestock be handled calmly with minimal excitement, that they never be dragged, that objects that cause unnecessary pain not be used to drive livestock, that water be provided in holding pens at all times, that feed be provided if an animal is at a plant more than 24 hours, and that livestock be stunned prior to slaughter. Federal inspectors are present at all times in plants that handle live animals and are empowered to take actions for compliance failures, including stopping production and even withdrawing inspection in extreme cases. FSIS releases notices, directives and other guidance (linked below) to the field as part of its oversight efforts.

Humane Interactive Knowledge Exchange (HIKE) Scenarios

Humane Interactive Knowledge Exchange (HIKE) scenarios are a USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) agency tool available to all Field Operations employees, to meat and poultry plants and to the public at large. Their goal is to help inspection personnel apply regulatory requirements, directives, notices, and to permit the regulated industry to understand expectations. 

HIKE 01-13 - An Egregious Humane Handling Noncompliance in an Establishment with a Robust Systematic Approach Plan to Humane Handling
HIKE Scenario 01-10 Stunning and Insensibility
HIKE Scenario 02-10 Use of Driving Tools and Electric Prods
HIKE Scenario 01-09: Density of Cattle in Pen/Access to Water
HIKE Scenario 04-08: Cattle in Chute and Drive Alley
HIKE Scenario 03-08: Egregious Electrical Stunning
HIKE Scenario 02-08: Cattle Unloading: Slips and Falls
HIKE Scenario 01-08 Double Stunning
Hike Scenario 01-05 Poultry Slaughter
HIKE Scenario 01-04 Cattle Access to Water
HIKE Scenario 01-03 Non-Slip Flooring



FSIS Notices are time sensitive materials issued to provide instruction in support of workplace policies, procedures and food safety regulations.  FSIS Notices expire one year from date of publication.

FSIS Notice 44-16   - Instructions for Writing Poultry Good Commercial Practices Noncompliance Letters and Memorandums of Interview Letters for Poultry Mistreatment, Expires July 1, 2017



FSIS directives provide official communications and instruction to Agency personnel in carrying out their functions.

FSIS Directive 6910.1 - District Veterinary Medical Specialist Work Methods
FSIS Directive 6900.2 - Humane Handling and Slaughter of Livestock


Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, 1958 and 1978