Animal welfare at slaughter
Whilst Scottish Government is responsible for animal welfare legislation in Scotland, one of our key functions in FSS approved slaughterhouses is to ensure that animals are protected prior to and during slaughter and killing. We license slaughterers and animal handlers, make sure they are 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 handle and 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 slaughterers’ 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.
View the guidance and both full and temporary Certificate of Competence applications.
Only otherwise healthy animals that have suffered a recent accident that prevents them from being transported to a slaughterhouse are eligible for emergency slaughter under the terms of Regulation (EC) No 853/2004. Livestock producers should be clear that the animal must meet these requirements before a veterinarian is asked to undertake an assessment of the animal before it is slaughtered. It is important to realise that animals that become lame over a period of time, for example, are not eligible for emergency slaughter.
The veterinarian must sign a declaration recording the favourable outcome of the ante-mortem inspection that he/she has carried out, the date and time of, and reason for, emergency slaughter, and the nature of any treatment administered by the veterinarian to the animal. This must accompany the body of the slaughtered animal to the slaughterhouse.
Only bodies of animals accompanied with correct and complete veterinary certification in accordance with 853/2004 can been accepted at the slaughterhouse for dressing. Bodies of emergency slaughter animals without correct certification will not be accepted, under any circumstances, at a slaughterhouse for processing for human consumption. The carcase will be rejected as unfit for human consumption
View the standard emergency slaughter model document which includes the requirements of Regulation (EC) No 853/2004.
Read our guidance on Home Slaughter.
View the guidance on the criteria for operators seeking authorisation to slaughter poultry on-farm and supply uneviscerated birds to approved poultry producers for delayed evisceration.