Enforcement of animal welfare regulations at slaughter

In response to a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published information about the enforcement of animal welfare regulations at slaughter.

The FSA's Official Veterinarians (OVs) carry out animal welfare checks at slaughter on behalf of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in England, and the Welsh and Scottish Governments in Wales and Scotland. Under European Union regulations, full responsibility for animal welfare and food safety in slaughterhouses rests with food business operators (FBOs) who must meet legislative requirements in terms of slaughterhouse design, layout and equipment. Their slaughterers must be competent and appropriately trained, and are licensed to slaughter all species presented to them. FBOs are responsible for ensuring animal needs are met and for the welfare of animals in their care. The FSA licenses slaughterers, making sure they have the right training and competence for the types of animals they are handling, and also enforces legislation relating to animal welfare at slaughter.

Specially trained OVs 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 FBO has appropriate procedures in place to safeguard animal welfare. Meat hygiene inspectors support them with these duties.

OVs are required to record all issues of non-compliance in relation to the Welfare Regulations on the FSA’s Animal Welfare Database. Tables 1-3 contain monthly reports from this database from April 2011 to March 2014. There are two categories of non-compliance that may be recorded. The first is where welfare practices were observed as failing to comply with requirements of Council Regulation (EC) 1099/2009, but there was no evidence of animals suffering any avoidable pain, distress or suffering during killing (3 Score). The second is where there was evidence of animals suffering avoidable pain, distress or suffering during killing (4 score). Where non-compliances are observed, OVs will carry out appropriate enforcement action, and depending on the nature of the non-compliance, may refer incidents for prosecution.

The tables are
Table 1: April 2011 – March 2012
Table 2: April 2012 – March 2013
Table 3: April 2013 – March 2014

The approval names and locations of the slaughterhouses and investigation reference numbers have been withheld under the exemption provided in section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which relates to law enforcement and regulatory action.

Further information about animal welfare at slaughter is available at the following link below.