Animal welfare at slaughter

One of our key functions in Scotland is to ensure that animals are protected prior to and during slaughter and killing. We license slaughterers, make sure they’re trained and competent, and enforce legislation.

Under EU regulations, food business operators are responsible for animal welfare and food safety in slaughterhouses. They must meet legislative requirements for slaughterhouse design, layout and equipment, and their slaughterers must be competent, appropriately trained, and licensed to slaughter all species presented to them. Operators are also responsible for ensuring animal needs are met and for the welfare of animals in their care.

Legislation on animal slaughter

Regulation (EC) 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing came into force across Europe on 1 January 2013. Most aspects of the regulation applied immediately, although some measures in relation to layout, construction and equipment in existing slaughterhouses won’t come into effect until December 2019.

The EU regulation replaced Directive 93/119/EC. Member states are allowed to keep national rules in place where these give greater protection to animals at the time of killing. The government is keen to make sure that the new European standards don’t result in a lowering of welfare standards for animals slaughtered in Scotland, while food business operators are provided with greater responsibility for the welfare of the animals at the approved premises.

New national legislation is already in place in Scotland - The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (Scotland) Regulations 2012 came into force on 1 January 2013.

This legislation introduced Certificates of Competence replacing slaughterman’ licences issued under the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or killing) Regulations 1995 (WASK). Within the new legislation are transitional provisions that give grandfather rights to holders of existing licences issued under WASK and to animal handlers and free-bullet shooters who can demonstrate three years’ experience prior to 1 January 2013. Our guidance contains information on how to apply for a Temporary Certificate of Competence, a Certificate of Competence and how to convert a licence issued under WASK to a Certificate of Competence.

You can see the guidance and both full and temporary Certificate of Competence guidance here.

Emergency slaughter

The British Cattle Veterinary Association has developed revised guidance for veterinary surgeons on emergency slaughter of cattle. You can find out more at

Home slaughter

See our guidance on Home Slaughter.

Poultry slaughter

Operators wishing to be authorised to slaughter poultry on-farm can find the guidance at

Farmed game slaughter

Information on ensuring that farmed game is slaughtered correctly is available on

Related Publications/Resources