Phase 1: Research and Laying the Foundation

Before you decide to set up a Slaughter Free City Team, please carefully review the SFC Core Principles. Anyone who agrees to these core principles, and agrees to carry them out to the best of their ability, can organize a City Team. To ensure that your team is aligned with our mission and values and to assess your progress, we schedule quarterly reviews.

To get started, please complete our questionnaire. We will review it and then contact you to schedule a call.

Phase 1: Research and Laying the Foundation

It is vital to the success of any activism campaign to lay a strong foundation. The purpose of research is to determine where the weaknesses are in the system that can form the basis of your campaign. Your team will be assigned an SFC advisor to help you carry out your research plan in 8 steps, as described below. We also recommend you try to recruit team members with some research or law experience, as well as connecting with law schools in your area that may have law professors, animal law groups and students interested in your project. The American Bar Association and National Lawyers Guild regional offices may also be good resources to seek assistance.

Step 1: Determine what slaughterhouses are operating in your city through public records websites and/or by doing Google searches (or ask the city or county Clerk office where to find this information). Create a spreadsheet or other list for easy reference and sharing. Check out our Chicago list as an example. Creating a map can also be helpful. For those who wish to campaign against a proposed slaughterhouse, we have also developed a specific set of guidelines, though we still recommend you review this document carefully.

Step 2: Review local and state laws. For U.S. cities and counties, download the city municipal code for free at The download is a searchable pdf file from which you can do keyword searches, such as “poultry,” “slaughter,” “slaughterhouse,” “meat processing,” to quickly direct you to any laws that apply specifically to slaughterhouses. In addition to becoming familiar with the laws, you’ll want to determine who has jurisdiction to enforce these laws (step 3).

Step 3: Determine what city or state departments license the slaughterhouses as well as the term and renewal process for the license. Log the status of their licenses in your spreadsheet, flagging those who have failed to renew, show as inactive or do not otherwise have a license in good standing. These may require further investigation. You may also obtain a copy of their actual licenses for your records. Lastly, find and review the conditions under which a license can be renewed, suspended or revoked — information which can usually be obtained on the licensing authority’s website or through an email inquiry.

Step 4: Get inspection and other records on slaughterhouses. This is where things can get a little complex and when the assistance of an attorney, law student or an SFC advisor can be very helpful. The purpose of getting records on slaughterhouses is that they can provide clues about where there is illegal activity and where regulators are failing to enforce laws. In turn, this information is key to developing our campaign strategy. Check out our flow chart showing how we did this in Chicago.

So where do you get these records? Start by requesting inspection reports from the licensing authorities. To ensure that slaughterhouse licenses are maintained in good standing, licensing authorities are often required to conduct regular inspections in which they cite violations and a “pass” or fail.” These inspection reports could reveal an incriminating history of violations and even misconduct or corruption by inspectors. Next, research other city or state level departments that have jurisdiction over the slaughterhouses. These often include departments of health, environment, zoning, building and animal care. We can help you determine which of these departments have jurisdiction and you can also search city ordinances or state statutes using

How do you obtain these records? The Clerk’s office is typically the keeper of the records and disseminator of information for local and state government. Calling and emailing certain public officials may result in getting some of the records you are seeking. However, you will likely need to submit Freedom of Information Requests (FOIAs). Most government websites provide instructions for submitting a FOIA request. We also provide FOIA request templates and will be happy to support you in writing your own as it is important to clearly define what you’re requesting.

Step 5: Review the records, identify the weak spots and targets. You may receive a lot of records and in a very disorganized and confusing manner. It may take time to sift through them, but it is well worth the effort. We recommend organizing them in folders based on the department from which they were sent along with the requests your team made. Share the records with your SFC advisor.

Look for patterns in violations or problems with oversight (such as a long lapse or no indication of inspections) which you think may get the most attention from the public, media and regulators. Rather than attempting to do an exhaustive analysis of every slaughterhouse, focus in on those which appear to have the worst record or worst reputation. You will later use this as the basis for your demand that your targets fix their broken system of oversight and crack down on the entire industry. In addition, look for slaughterhouses:

  • operating close to schools, day care centers, playgrounds, senior centers, hospitals, churches, etc.
  • with owners nearing retirement age
  • with owners leasing rather than owning the property where they conduct business
  • with owners pending litigation against them, money judgments, tax improprieties, etc.

Step 6: Do your own slaughterhouse monitoring. If possible, recruit team members to do on-site slaughterhouse monitoring. This doesn’t mean doing the kind of high-risk, undercover investigative work that creates sensational headlines. It’s not necessarily that dramatic. Check out our Chicago monitoring guide for more details on how we conduct legal monitoring. We are looking for violations that could result in fines and other disciplinary action. Document your monitoring in eyewitness reports, photos and video and send your report to the appropriate officials (more on this later). The value of doing your own monitoring is that you have your own “inspections” independent from the government inspections and you can compare them with your own.

Step 7: Pick your targets. Because we want system-wide change rather than just closing one particular slaughterhouse, our model of advocacy targets high-level public officials responsible for enforcing laws on all slaughterhouses. For this reason, each team needs to determine who these local and state officials are for their region. These individuals will become the targets of your campaign. They could be a combination of department heads, such as the Commissioner of Public Health, Environment, the Mayor, city council members, the state director of agriculture, etc. Create a list of these contacts for easy reference. Perhaps start small and pick just one target. Then develop a profile using our target profile template.

Step 8: Develop your strategy brief. The strategy brief should summarize what you’ve learned through the team’s research and monitoring work and lay out the potential paths for how to achieve your goal through public pressure campaigns and other tactics. Seek the help of your SFC advisor in developing this important document. The brief is designed to make it easy for new people to understand the work that has been done up to now, the goals, demands and possible strategies to consider moving forward. The strategy brief will serve as an important unifying tool to ensure that you are communicating clearly and consistently to grow the team needed for public campaigning.

Your now ready to move to Phase II: Getting the campaign off the ground