Manual for the slaughter of small ruminants in developing countries

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1.1 Objectives and Scope of the Manual

The purpose of this Manual is to set out guidelines for the slaughter of small ruminants, namely sheep and goats, in developing countries.

More than any other source of red meat, sheep and goats have the widest distribution in most areas of the developing tropics because of their prolific nature, hardiness in adverse conditions and, most important, their high rate of acceptability with the vast majority of people. Small ruminant stock occur in all types of environment, from rain forests to deserts, and are numerically more common in foreign trade than any other species of livestock (See Table 1B in Appendix I).

In most countries of Africa and Asia sheep and goats serve the dual purpose of supplying dietary needs and as a source of sacrificial offerings, the latter often precluding their use as food. For instance, the Arabian Peninsula, which embodies a number of Islamic states, though traditionally a livestock-deficient region, imports large numbers of sheep, between 4–5 million annually, for the Haji (Id-el-Fitr) festival.

The popularity of sheep and goats is not always matched by suitable methods and procedures for their conversion into food. The great majority of these animals occurs in rural areas which are also centres of tradition where ritual observances are strongest. Consequently, these are the places where they are mostly slaughtered, consumed and/or used in sacrificial offerings. Unofficial slaughter of small ruminants is much greater than officially recorded slaughter (Table 1A).

1.2 Need to Improve Slaughter Practices

Again in these countries, the methods of sheep and goat handling and slaughter for public consumption invariably follow traditional and ritualistic norms, some of which at times are at variance with acceptable practices resulting in cruelty to animals, quality losses in meat and a challenge to public health and aesthetic values.

The chief objective of this Manual therefore is to outline a few procedures governing modern-day slaughtering, particularly those concerned with humane practices and the attainment of a good quality product which is safe and wholesome for human use. This will be done taking into consideration the key aspects of religious and traditional observances and the possible modifications that can be brought to bear on them for the attainment of the objectives.

Additionally, the important question of livestock and carcass handling, slaughterhouse hygiene and sanitation, waste disposal and byproduct utilization will be covered as will specifications required for the construction, equipping and rehabilitation of slaughter premises. It is hoped that readers or users of this Manual will find it useful and practical.

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