Sixty Charolais male beef cattle of eight months of age were divided into two groups according to the slaughtering method, i.e., traditional or Kosher (religious Jewish rite). The aim of the study was to detect and compare the plasma concentrations of cortisol and catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine), by Elisa and HPLC test. These four stress indicators were evaluated during three different stages of each animal productive life: on the farm (step 1), after transportation (step 2) and during bleeding (step 3). The patterns of the parameters measured were similar and, interestingly, revealed significant changes throughout the three steps considered. The greatest variation between the two methods of slaughtering was observed in step 3, where we found a statistically significant difference with all the parameters except epinephrine. In the animals slaughtered by the religious rite, cortisol, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine were 68.70 ± 30.61 nmol/L; 868.43 ± 508.52 ng/L; 3776.20 ± 1918.44 ng/L; and 4352.20 ± 3730.15 ng/L, respectively, versus 45.08 ± 14.15 nmol/L; 513.87 ± 286.32 ng/L; 3425.57 ± 1777.39 ng/L; and 3279.97 ± 1954.53 ng/L, respectively, in the other animals. This suggests that the animals slaughtered by the Kosher rite are subjected to higher stress conditions at the exsanguination phase. The animals slaughtered by the religious Jewish rite showed lower cortisol and catecholamine levels on the farm (step 1) and after transportation to the slaughterhouse (step 2). This was likely because the animals selected at the end of step 1 by the Rabbis for the religious rite are usually the most docile and gentle.
Keywords: animal welfare; cortisol; dopamine; epinephrine; norepinephrine.