Slaughter-house cruelty emerged as a social issue in the nineteenth century and traditional butcher craftsmanship was challenged by humanitarian reformers. As a result, several manually operated slaughter masks were developed in the 1870s. Best known and first was the Bruneau Mask patented in 1872 by A.M. Bruneau, a butcher located in La Villette, the grand abattoir of Paris. It used a leather shield to cover the eyes and fastened to the muzzle with a strap around the horns. A steel plate was centred over the forehead with a cylindrical guide to channel a free bolt. The bolt was struck with a mallet and driven into the forehead followed by pithing. To compensate for variations in head size and shape, the mask had to be carefully adjusted for each animal and it was difficult and time-consuming to fit on agitated cattle and the wilder animals from range settings such as Scotland and North America. Bruneau’ s invention never caught on in the United States. Experiments in Philadelphia during the mid-1880s found it difficult to secure the mask, moreover, many observers believed the killing itself a painful and lengthy process.
A disturbing artifact that ironically was introduced as a humanitarian means to previous methods. Condition is remarkably well preserved, complete, solid, thick leather, in good condition, including the original bolt.