Animals need to get to the slaughterhouse before meeting their fate. Unfortunately, many of the animals endure unavoidable stresses on the wait and journey to slaughter. Fowl are crowded into cages, unruly or stationary steer and swine are shocked electrically to facilitate order and progressive movement through the abattoir. The crowding alone can cause stress to the animal. Then there are the variety of stunning methods employed by workers to ensure the animal is unconscious or stunned enough for the bleeding process. The most popular device to stun the animal is the captive bolt pistol. The animal, sheep, swine, goat, calve, cattle, horses, or mule, is led into a device which locks and positions the head to ensure that the animal is immobile prior to stunning. The captive bolt is then positioned on a specific area of the head and applied. The device penetrates the skull and enters the cranium causing catastrophic damage to the brain. The animal is then considered unconscious and is fit to be bled. The animal does not die as a direct result of the captive bolt, it dies as a result of the following bleeding. All animals slaughtered in commercial abattoirs ultimately die by exsanguination, which can last as long as 5-10 minutes. The skulls of the animals are too large to be crushed, so there is no palpation of the skull to ensure unconsciousness. There is also no blinking reflex test performed, mainly because the animal most assuredly will blink if the eye is touched until well after exsanguination. The captive bolt pistol is also just that, a pistol. It requires aim, technique, finesse, and proper training to utilize effectively on every animal.
Compare this with the open abattoir that is the commercial seal hunt. Seals are in their natural habitat prior to being killed. They are not crowded into cages, trapped, or transported. They are simply on the ice and in their natural environment as they always are. Sealers come to the seal, and not the other way around. The animals are under no visible stress. In fact, most seals are completely docile as they are used to being predators of the ice and ocean, not prey. The harp seal's skull is smaller and thinner than any cattle or pig or other livestock, and therefore easily crushed. High velocity bullets and rifles in the hands of an experienced sealer can quickly deliver a shot that causes more damage to the seal's skull (regardless of age) and brain matter than a captive bolt pistol on livestock. The humaneness of the hunt is exemplified even more so by usage of the hakapik. The hakapik is a fail safe weapon for killing seals, and was designed specifically as such. Seals less than one year old (which in turn have considerably thinner, weaker skulls) are rendered unconscious or "stunned" by a single blow. Multiple blows are often administered to completely destroy the skull, cerebrum, cerebellum, and sever the brain stem ensuring death before exsanguination, something a captive bolt cannot and does not do. Seals are bled, but the animal is undoubtedly dead before the process begins. It can then be argued that seals are slaughtered quicker and more effectively than livestock in commercial slaughterhouses. The skull and contents destroyed and palpated to verify that sufficient damage has been inflicted, the eye is touched to ensure that not even involuntary reflexes and/or electricity is active in the body, and they are bled for a minimum of one minute before being pelted. By comparison with commercial slaughter, the process is about as humane as any type of slaughter gets.