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Apologies if this isn't appropriate for this SE - it was the most relevant one I could find.

When animals are being led to slaughter, I imagine it must happen occasionally that one gets the sense that something is wrong—perhaps they hear or smell something unnerving up ahead—and spooks. Whether fight, flight or freeze, this will presumably interrupt the process and their behaviour may potentially spook additional animals.

What happens in this situation? If an animal flat-out refuses to move/will not respond to attempts to calm it, do the slaughterhouse workers just euthanise it on the spot and move on? Or would this just spook the surrounding animals more? Does the stress-induced lactic acid buildup mean that the animal is not processed for food?

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  • Apparently some animals are slaughtered by a surprise bullet from a distant sharpshooter, which is supposed to cause less/no stress. – gerrit May 26 '20 at 15:54
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    @gerrit That's very interesting, but I can't find anything by searching online; do you have a source? I'd be a little surprised to find there is a dedicated cow sniper perched in a tree outside of the slaughterhouse, just waiting for his moment to shine. – 08915bfe02 May 27 '20 at 6:00
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    It's in German, but: Üblich ist die Betäubung per Kugelschuss. Die Tiere werden dabei in gewohnter Umgebung auf der Weide – während sie fressen oder ruhen – durch einen Schuss in den Kopf betäubt und innerhalb kürzester Zeit durch Entbluten getötet. Die Erfahrungen zeigen, dass die Tötung für die Tiere so überraschend kommt, dass sie vorher keinerlei Stress erfahren. Und auch die Herdenmitglieder reagieren nur minimal bis gar nicht auf den Schuss der schallgedämpften Langwaffe. – gerrit May 27 '20 at 8:11
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    Translation: Common is the stunning by bullet shot. The animals are stunned in their regular environment at the meadow — during grazing or when resting — by a shot in the head, and are dying in a very short time due to blood loss. Experience shows that the killing is so sudden for the animals, that they experience no stress at all. And also the rest of the herd responds minimally to the shot with the silenced long-distance weapon. So not at the slaughterhouse, but in the meadow at their own home. – gerrit May 27 '20 at 8:13
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    In German they call it Weideschlachtung. I only learned about it from the regional news last week, a local authority introduced rules arguing that the animal to be shot should first be separated from the others (so the cow can be killed more quickly in case the first shot fails), but farmers using this slaughter method argued that this rule actually makes it worse for the cows as the separation causes stress. – gerrit May 27 '20 at 8:16
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Just a review, from here:

Federal law in the United States requires that animals should be stunned before they are slaughtered. The following types of stunning are used: captive bolt stunning and electrical stunning. However, this law is often broken at these slaughterhouses.

This indicates that the law is broken often, probably due to speed-slaughter conditions that are required by the meat business.

In the first link also notes:

In many slaughterhouses in the United States, there is time constraint which is often the reason behind animal cruelty.

So, it appears that there is no one answer on what the slaughterhouses do, this question could be answered generally by stating:

Animals that slow down the process of slaughterhouse operations are destroyed in a way that maximize speed of the operation, often concentrating on expediency/profit maximization and rarely on reduction of cruelty to animals.

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