The welfare of farm animals at slaughter

The Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 governs the welfare of animals at slaughter.

When do the regulations apply?

The Regulations apply in relation to the movement, “lairaging” (the keeping of an animal in a stall, pen, covered area or field used by a slaughterhouse or knacker’s yard for the purpose of confining or attending to the animal until it is slaughtered or killed), restraint, stunning, slaughter and killing of animals bred or kept for the production of meat, skin, fur or other products.

The Regulations also apply to the killing of animals for the purpose of disease control and to the killing of surplus chicks and embryos.

The Regulations do not apply to animals bred or kept for the purpose of experimentation or scientific procedures, to animals killed during sporting events or to the killing of wild game.

Prohibited acts

The Regulations prohibits the following acts:

  • causing or permitting any avoidable excitement, pain or suffering to an animal;
  • the movement, lairaging, restraint, stunning, slaughter or killing of an animal by a person who does not have the knowledge and skill necessary to perform such tasks humanely and efficiently.

Obligations of occupiers of slaughterhouses and knacker’s yards

Occupiers of slaughterhouses and knacker’s yards are required to:

  • ensure that there is a person available on the premises, at all times when there are live animals there, who is competent and authorised to take whatever action may be necessary to safeguard the welfare of the animals;
  • ensure that any person involved in the activities to which the Regulations relate is familiar with the Regulations and any relevant welfare codes, has access to any relevant welfare code and has received adequate training in these respects;
  • hold a licence, where one is required;
  • ensure that their premises are adequately constructed, equipped and maintained;
  • ensure that animals are properly moved, lairged, restrained, stunned before slaughter, killed, bled or “pithed” (stunned in a manner in which they will not regain consciousness).

There are detailed requirements relating to the construction, equipment and maintenance of slaughterhouses and knacker’s yards and relating to the animals awaiting slaughter or killing, restraint of animals before stunning, slaughter or killing, the stunning or killing of animals other than animals reared for fur, the bleeding or pithing of animals, the killing of pigs and birds by exposure to gas mixtures, the slaughter or killing of horses in slaughterhouses and knackers’ yards and in relation to slaughter by religious methods.

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For more information on:

  • Obligations where animals are slaughtered or killed in places other than slaughterhouses and knacker’s yards
  • Powers of inspectors
  • Contravention of the regulations