In the guide
This guidance is for England
Whether or not an owner is permitted to kill sheep for private consumption depends on whether the slaughter takes place outside or inside a licensed slaughterhouse.
There are two lawful ways to have your animals slaughtered and prepared for your own consumption: in an approved slaughterhouse, or on your farm by you for your own private consumption or that of immediate family living there.
On-farm slaughter of any livestock is an extremely difficult option to achieve legally in terms of food hygiene and TSE controls, and in terms of application of humane methods of restraint, stunning and slaughter. You need to ensure that you dispose of the carcase and any animal waste in accordance with the Regulations.
Slaughter outside a licensed slaughterhouse
EU Regulation (EC) 853/2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin states that in most cases meat for human consumption must be from animals slaughtered in an approved slaughterhouse (an approved slaughterhouse could include a licensed mobile slaughterhouse but not an itinerant slaughterman). A full list of meat establishments that are approved to slaughter livestock and/or cut meat can be found on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website; contact details for those wanting further information about approved meat establishments across the UK are also available by following this link.
At present it is the FSA's policy that you are not able to use an itinerant slaughterman to kill animals at your farm. It would also be unlawful to have the animal slaughtered anywhere else away from your property other than in an approved slaughterhouse.
Under EU Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 it is an offence to sell, or to supply to another person, meat that has not been slaughtered and health-marked in a licensed abattoir. It is for this reason that meat that has been slaughtered on-farm can only be consumed by the owner and their immediate family.Back to top
Can I slaughter the sheep myself?
It is lawful for your sheep to be slaughtered on your farm by you, as long as you observe certain requirements.
You must have the necessary skills and training to ensure that you treat the animals humanely. Also you need to have the necessary equipment and be sure that you can use it competently.
It is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.
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 your sheep, you must restrain them without causing them pain, suffering or distress. The Regulations also make it an offence to cause or permit any avoidable excitement, pain or suffering to any animal during the slaughter or killing process.
Under these Regulations, religious slaughter is only permitted in approved slaughterhouses, as all on-farm kills must be stunned before bleeding.
More information on the legal requirements you will need to comply with for home slaughter can be found on the GOV.UK website.
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 website. Information on the humane killing of livestock using firearms is also available.Back to top
Do I need a slaughter licence?
A slaughter licence is not needed when slaughtering your own animal for your own consumption or consumption by your immediate family who live with you. However, certain operations both in slaughterhouses and when carried out on farms for the purpose of killing animals require a certificate of competence (CoC).
Further information on when a CoC is required and how to obtain one can be found on the GOV.UK website.Back to top
Disposal of waste material
Animal by-products must be disposed of in accordance with the Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2013. This is all slaughter waste not destined for human consumption or classed as SRM, including the horns, hides, hooves and blood. (See also 'Disposal of animal by-products'.)
The carcase or any product of animal origin must not be offered for sale or otherwise to a third party or the public, which includes giving away to friends, relatives, etc. If the carcase is to be sold, given away, etc the rules for slaughter on-farm do not apply and a licensed slaughterhouse must always be used.
The sheep must be free of veterinary medicine residues.Back to top
Specified risk material
The owner must stain, store, dispose of, etc the specified risk material (SRM) in accordance with the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (England) Regulations 2018.
Definitions of SRM will depend on the age of the animal being slaughtered:
- for sheep of all ages the spleen and the ileum
- for sheep over 12 months of age or having a permanent incisor erupted, the SRM is defined as the skull (including the brain and eyes), the tonsils and the spinal cord
For more detail on home slaughter of livestock generally, please see 'Home slaughter for private consumption'.
Further guidance on home slaughter can be found on the Food Standards Agency website. The FSA is currently considering a policy revisal to include the option for home slaughter and dressing to be carried out by a licensed slaughterman. The final policy decision may affect some of the advice included in this guide.Back to top
Failure to comply with trading standards law can lead to enforcement action and to sanctions, which may include a fine and/or imprisonment. For more information please see 'Trading standards: powers, enforcement & penalties'.Back to top
EU Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin
EU Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 laying down health rules as regards animal by-products and derived products not intended for human consumption (Animal by-products Regulation)
EU Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing
Last reviewed / updated: June 2019