Written in partnership with Rural Vermont, by Caroline Gordon. All photos courtesy of Rural Vermont.
Rural Vermont was founded in 1985 by farmers and community organizers, and is one of Vermont’s largest farmer membership-based non-profit organizations, independent from government support and corporate control. Through collaborative local, statewide, and national efforts they advocate for policies that strengthen family farms, sustain rural communities, and promote local food sovereignty.
In 2013, Act 83 passed in Vermont. The act allows for on-farm slaughter with the help of itinerant slaughterers – professional slaughterers who are hired to travel to the farm where the slaughter then occurs. Rural Vermont and their farmer and non-farmer members have been active on this issue since the early 2000’s and still persist in seeking widespread public recognition that this heritage practice is perfectly legal and of critical importance to food sovereignty and food security. Itinerant slaughterers play a fundamental role in our local food webs, and culturally hold and transmit essential skills. It is important for farmers to feel confident that they are in compliance with on-farm slaughter laws, that they are able to support their animals’ welfare, that they are secure in planning their business, and have the ability to promote this practice and tradition.
Support Rural Vermont, NFFC, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund in our efforts to protect the practice of slaughtering livestock on the farms where they were raised and clarify the Federal Meat Inspection Act’s “personal-use exemption.” Based on this federal exemption, 27 states allow livestock owners to have an itinerant/agent slaughter their livestock on-farm and to use that meat without state or federal inspection. The Federal Meat Inspection Act, enacted in 1906 and last updated in 1989, bases the personal-use exemption on who raised the animals instead of who owns them.
Currently, farmers and homesteaders selling livestock for on-farm slaughter, itinerant slaughterers, and custom processors all rely on guidance provided by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which bases the personal use exemption on ownership. USDA FSIS guidance, however, is vulnerable to change. The Farm Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that authorizes most federal policies governing food and agriculture programs. A technical amendment to the personal-use exemption should be included in the Farm Bill, clarifying that on-farm slaughter is legal.
The Federal Meat Inspection Act should be revised to protect personal-use based on ownership, reflecting modern FSIS guidance and ensuring that livestock owners, livestock producers, and itinerant slaughterers have permanent protection to practice on-farm slaughter in accordance with state laws.
How can you help support this campaign? Take Action NOW!
- Share & sign this petition
- Call your Senator and Representative in D.C. & express your support with an individual message about why this issue is important to you! Contact members of Congress here.
- Download and share the infographic and policy guide about On-Farm Slaughter here.
- Hear lived experience – watch this video with itinerant slaughterer Mary Lake!