Mac McClelland at Modern Farmer ponders the term "humane slaughter" and visits Prather Ranch, a certified organic beef ranch, to see how it is done:
The next cow, the cow I watch die, is quiet. It is black. It comes casually down a walkway. It steps into a squeeze chute, the metal hugging cage that closes in on the cows’ sides to calm them. Scott Towne, the guy in charge of the killing, hits it with a CASH Knocker, a blank shell shooting from a metal apparatus at the end of the long, wooden-handled device and into the front of the head above the eyes, denting the skull but not penetrating its brain, rendering the animal insensible. Instantly the cow’s eyes close. Its neck is lax and its mouth open, easy as a child asleep at the dinner table, or a businessman asleep on a plane.
Stopping at a bar on the way home to bourbon-gargle the lingering deathiness and nausea from the back of my throat, I ponder the cow’s existence. Whether or not farmers should torture animals, or keep them in disgusting and overcrowded and shit-filled conditions, or murder them slowly, are not even questions. Prather’s Northern California grass-munching herd is obviously as well treated as any in natural life, but “good” death is not so easily codified.
“Can you make a slaughterhouse perfect?” Grandin asked in Iowa. “No, nothing in this world that’s a practical thing can be made perfect. That’s just impossible.”
McClelland does a good job summarizing the history of humane slaughter and how Temple Grandin has helped improve the industry, so go read the rest.