The advice sheets below have the latest information on animal health and welfare. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Enforcement & Regulatory option).
In the guide
This guidance is for England
When dispatching on-farm, infant calves must be killed humanely and without avoidable excitement, pain and suffering. If dispatching on-farm you must have the relevant skills, training and equipment.
Calves killed on-farm within the requisite timescales are exempt from ear tag and passport requirements but if they have been tagged but are unregistered their births and deaths must be reported to the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) (opens in a new window). The deaths of untagged calves must be recorded in your on-farm records.
A number of firearms are suitable for the on-farm killing of calves and there are also various outlets for off-farm slaughter. Either way, the carcases must be disposed of in accordance with the Regulations.
The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing Regulations 2015 and EU Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing create offences for failing to comply with provisions relating to restraining, stunning and killing. Unless you are using a firearm to kill calves, you must restrain them. The Regulations also make it an offence to cause or permit any avoidable excitement, pain or suffering to any animal during the killing process.
Under these Regulations, religious slaughter is only permitted in approved slaughterhouses.
More information on the legal requirements (opens in a new window) you will need to comply with for on-farm slaughter can be found on the GOV.UK website.
You need to have the necessary skills and training to ensure that you kill the animals humanely. You need to have the necessary equipment and be sure that you can use it competently. You also need a certificate of competence (CoC) if you cull animals on-farm (except when an animal is killed in an emergency - that is, when it is injured). More information on obtaining a CoC (opens in a new window) can be found on the GOV.UK website.
It is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.
Two methods of killing are permitted:
Operators must be in possession of a current firearm certificate or shotgun certificate. Shotguns and rifles should not be used in enclosed spaces or on hard surfaces. The physical appearance of the calf after being shot can be distressing.
Captive bolt equipment is no longer subject to the firearm legislation.
Certain operations both in slaughterhouses and when carried out on farms for the purpose of killing animals for food require a CoC. One such operation is killing animals by free bullet.
Detailed information relating to the practical considerations of captive bolt stunning, equipment, restraint, and bleeding and pithing can be found on the Humane Slaughter Association (opens in a new window) website. Information on the humane killing of livestock using firearms (opens in a new window) is also available.
Rather than an on-farm kill, the following outlets could be considered:
The keeper must also notify BCMS of the death within seven days by one of the following methods:
Whichever method of notifying BCMS of a death is chosen, the cattle passport must be returned to BCMS within seven days. Deaths must also be recorded in the on-farm register.
Dairy calves killed on-farm within 36 hours of birth (20 days of birth for non-dairy calves) do not require ear tags or passports; however, their births and deaths must be notified to BCMS if the calf has been tagged but is unregistered.
You do not need to report the deaths of calves that die before they have been tagged but you must record this in your records. Tagging and passport rules apply to live farm-to-farm movements.
Please note that carcases must be disposed of in accordance with the Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2013. General provisions are as follows:
For more information please see 'Disposal of animal by-products'.
There are a number of offences for failing to comply with the requirements of the legislation detailed above. The penalties that may be imposed vary, with the maximum being a fine and two years' imprisonment.
For guidance on the correct use and maintenance of firearms and captive-bolt equipment contact the Humane Slaughter Association (opens in a new window) on 01582 831919.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs codes of practice are available by telephoning 03459 33 55 77 and further information on on-farm killing and slaughter (opens in a new window) can be found on the GOV.UK website.
You should also note that the food hygiene regulations may apply to on-farm killing. Guidance on hygiene legislation (opens in a new window) can be found on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website or in 'Home slaughter for private consumption'.
Last reviewed / updated: September 2017
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.