Slaughter licensing and animal welfare

Individuals carrying out certain slaughter operations must hold a Certificate of Competence for the operations they perform. Under EU regulations, full responsibility for animal welfare and food safety in slaughterhouses rests with business operators who must meet legislative requirements in terms of slaughterhouse design, layout and equipment.

From 1 November 2016: Certificate of Competence to include calves

The Certificate of Competence training modules will change from Tuesday 1 November 2016 following a review.

The FSA has worked closely with FDQ and other training providers to agree the revised units which now match the competencies in EC 1099/2009 Annex IV.

In the original training modules, there was no separate module for calves. The FDQ consultation elicited responses that this omission should be corrected. The FSA and FDQ have agreed to add a new species unit ‘V’ and new competencies for calves.

FDQ will introduce the new training units from 1 November 2016. At the same time, the FSA will revise the Certificate of Competence application form and issue cards with calves as an additional species, code V.

Please note: Existing Certificate of Competence holders will not need to take any action. All Certificate of Competence issued before 1 November 2016 showing cattle will still include calves.

Certificate of Competence

The Certificate of Competence application form and guidance can be found at the links further down this page.

Anyone carrying out certain slaughter operations must hold a Certificate of Competence, under the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (WATOK) Regulations.

Applications after 8 December 2015 or for individuals without a WASK licence or grandfather rights

You will have to apply for a Temporary Certificate of Competence which allows you to work under the direct supervision of a full Certificate of Competence holder for the species and operations being carried out while undertaking training. Evidence of registration must be provided to the OV to allow the TCoC ​Temporary Certificate of Competence to be issued.

Temporary Certificates of Competence are valid for 3 months from date of issue.  During this period the holder will have to undertake and successfully pass the assessment and be awarded the Qualification Certificate required for a Certificate of Competence to be issued.

If you are unable to complete the assessment for a Qualification Certificate within 3 months for reasons outside your control, you can apply for a re-issue through the Official Veterinarian in the slaughterhouse, but this is only for exceptional cases and each case will be considered on its own merits by a panel from the FSA and either Welsh Government or Defra animal welfare policy teams.

Appeals

A decision made in England and Wales by the FSA to refuse, suspend or revoke a Certificate of Competence may be appealed.  The appeal system entitles you to make written representations to and be heard by the General Regulatory Chamber First Tier Tribunal.  To do this you should use the Ministry of Justice form T98 and lodge it with the General Regulatory Chamber, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, PO Box 9300, Leicester, LE1 6ZX within 28 days of the decision.  More information about the HM Courts and Tribunals Service.

Responsibilities for Animal Welfare in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Under EU regulations, full responsibility for animal welfare and food safety in slaughterhouses rests with business operators who must meet legislative requirements in terms of slaughterhouse design, layout and equipment. Their slaughterers must be competent and appropriately trained, and licensed to slaughter all species presented to them.

Business operators are responsible for ensuring animal needs are met and for the welfare of animals in their care.

One of the FSA’s key functions in England and Wales is to monitor that animals are protected prior to and during slaughter and killing. The FSA issues certificates of competence for slaughterers and other operatives working with animals such as handlers or shacklers, making sure they have the right training and competence for the types of animals they are handling and the duties they are carrying out. The FSA also enforces legislation relating to animal welfare at slaughter. This work is carried out on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in England, and the Welsh Government in Wales. In Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development carries out this function.

Strategic priorities

The FSA’s strategy for 2015-20, emphasises our role, set out in our founding legislation, to “protect public health … and otherwise to protect the interests of consumers in relation to food.”

From our own research and published evidence, we know that consumers have a strong interest in the welfare of animals in the food chain, including their welfare at slaughter (by which we mean their welfare from arrival at the premises where they are to be slaughtered until they are dead).

Our work safeguarding the protection of animal welfare prior to and during slaughter and killing plays an important part in protecting consumer interests in this area.

The FSA's checks

Specially trained Official Veterinarians carry out checks to make sure that there have been no issues concerning the welfare of animals presented for slaughter - either when the animals were on farm, or during transport, or when the animals arrive at the slaughterhouse. These checks include making sure that the business operator has appropriate procedures in place to safeguard animal welfare. Meat Hygiene Inspectors support them with these duties.

FSA operational staff monitor the slaughter process to ensure that welfare at slaughter is maintained to the highest standards. Checks are made on the unloading and handling of animals, where they are kept prior to slaughter, and restraining of animals, positioning of stunning equipment, the effectiveness of the stun, and the efficiency of bleeding, so that the risk of any animal suffering during the process is minimised. This includes monitoring of slaughter by religious methods including special restraint facilities that may be in place for this purpose.

Use of CCTV to monitor slaughter processes

The FSA operates zero tolerance towards animal cruelty. Businesses must have appropriate systems in place to comply with legal requirements and achieve the required standards of animal welfare. The vast majority of slaughterhouses in Britain are fully compliant with animal welfare requirements.

The scale of meat production means that the FSA cannot oversee the slaughter of every animal. There is also often limited space in the stunning pen to observe slaughter. The FSA therefore supports the use of CCTV in slaughterhouses as an effective monitoring tool for animal welfare - for both the food business operator and their management team, or the FSA – to ensure necessary standards are being met at all times.

The FSA’s experience is that business operators who have CCTV in use for animal welfare are keen to demonstrate the high standards at which their operatives work. However, current legislation does not require business operators to install CCTV and therefore the FSA cannot enforce its installation. The FSA is working with operators and the meat industry to encourage voluntary installation as best practice.

Defra and the Welsh Government have lead policy responsibility relating to animal welfare in slaughterhouses.

Legislation

Council Regulation (EC) 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing came into force across Europe on 1 January 2013. While most aspects of the regulation applied immediately, some measures in relation to layout, construction and equipment in existing slaughterhouses will not come into effect until December 2019. The EU regulation replaced Directive 93/119/EC. England and Wales have also retained national rules where these give greater protection to animals at the time of killing than the EU Regulation.

National Legislation providing an enforcement powers and national rules is in place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland:
The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England) Regulations 2015 comes into force on 5 November 2015
The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (Wales) Regulations 2014 came into force on 20 May 2014
The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2014 came into force on 21 May 2014

This legislation revoked the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 (WASK) previously in place.

Requirements for non-stun slaughter

Defra has recently clarified the requirements for non-stun slaughter of small ruminant animals by religious rites. Details can be found  at https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/vrestrainersguidancefinalengland.pdf

Training

Individuals that are involved in killing and related operations must now hold an appropriate proficiency qualification before being able to apply for a Certificate of Competence (unless they have grandfather rights and meet application criteria outlined above).

FDQ and RSPH approve food businesses and learning providers to deliver and assess proficiency qualifications, and are able to provide further information for food businesses wanting their staff to complete a suitable qualification.

National survey

The FSA carried out a week long animal welfare surveys in slaughterhouses in Britain in 2011 and 2013 to provide assurance that:

  • food business operators were taking active steps to comply with legal requirements and achieve necessary animal welfare standards, and
  • Official Veterinarians and frontline teams were carrying out their roles effectively, with appropriate monitoring and relevant enforcement action being taken in the event of food business operator non-compliance.

An unannounced inspection programme also took place in February to March 2015, with results presented to the FSA Board in June 2015

Useful links on other government sites

Further information on animal welfare can be found on the GOV.UK website, where you can find a wide range of guidance, legislation and codes of practice designed to protect animal welfare on farms, in transport, at markets and at slaughter.

Use the 'External sites' links on this page for more information on arrangements in England, Scotland and Wales.