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Ah, Africa... A work colleague and I have been comparing animal slaughtering techniques in our respective traditions. He says that for a large animal like a cow that cannot be restrained manually they will stroke its neck to calm it and then stab it downwards into the neck to sever the spinal cord. Once it has dropped to the floor they will cut its throat.

The laws of shechita do not allow that. To the best of my knowledge, nowadays in a modern kosher abattoir a cow or bull is hoisted up and held by a machine to facilitate access to its throat. What did shochtim do before these helpful machines?

I remember reading about restraining rings fixed to the floor in the Temple, and I suppose that was the standard way of shechting, but how did it practically work? Were these rings hinged? Did you have to force the animals head down? A bull will win any contest of strength, so there must have been some tried and tested technique for a slick operation.

Pictures and/or diagrams would be very helpful, but consider that sensitive readers might prefer a link to disturbing images rather than embedded pictures.

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Cows and bulls were not common animals back them (although obviously they existed). Sheep and goats were much more common, and are smaller. On top of that cows are much larger today than they used to be. –  Ariel Nov 15 '12 at 8:56
    
@Ariel It might have been uncommon privately, but it was definitely done regularly in the Temple, so there must have been a standard procedure. –  Michael Sandler Nov 15 '12 at 11:06
    
This all forms upon the temperament of the animal as the attitude and genetics of these creatures are exponentially different from their origins. –  Simon May 10 at 12:34

2 Answers 2

Rambam rules that shechitah can be performed on an animal that's standing or crouching. Yet Rabbi Genack of OU Kosher mentions it was not uncommon in Eastern Europe to first roll the animal onto its back and hold it down that way. An attempt to implement this practice in factory settings led to the "rotary pen" that picks the animal up upside-down, which has given kosher slaughter some very bad PR. Rabbi Genack strongly prefers designs that leave the cow standing but keep its neck supported, such as Dr. Grandin's design, or an older design endorsed by the ASPCA that the late Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik had (presciently) been involved in, garnering support from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein as well.

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Here is a shiur by Rabbi Genack, where he mentions these ideas #source –  Shokhet May 5 at 4:54

I think they shechted them upright. See the bottom of http://www.grandin.com/ritual/euthanasia.slaughter.livestock.html for a picture of the modern mechanism.

In the Bais Hamikdash they had special rings which you can read about here. The rings held the animal immobile, and yes they were hinged.

And apparently some guys shechted a cow which was only tied to a tree. But it doesn't give details on how they did it.

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