Whatever the reason for putting down an animal, the primary aim of on-farm slaughter is to bring about death with the minimum of pain, suffering and distress to the animal. The person carrying out the slaughter of any animal has a legal responsibility to ensure the procedure causes minimum stress to the animal.
The humane slaughter guidelines will help you and your staff ensure any animals slaughtered on-farm are put down in a humane, respectful and effective manner.
Basic requirements should be met before slaughtering any animal on-farm. These include:
- Establishing a farm policy that outlines who can slaughter animals, when, where and using what method.
- Making sure you and your staff are properly trained and know how to use all equipment safely (including firearms).
- Following the correct processes. Bear in mind that processes vary for calves, cows and bulls.
- Minimising stress for all. A quick, effective kill is best for both animal and operator.
- Choosing the right location. Different methods have different requirements to make them safe and effective
Each farm should have a written policy and procedures for the humane slaughter of livestock.
Any person who undertakes this task must be trained. They must demonstrate knowledge and competency in the safe handling of animals and effective methods for putting livestock down, before being authorised to carry out slaughter of animals on-farm.
All stock must be put down with respect, using an approved method without causing undue stress, pain or discomfort.
The slaughter of livestock is a sensitive issue for everyone and while it is an unavoidable fact of farm life, wherever possible, it should be carried out responsibly; away from other animals and public view.
Dead stock disposal
It is important to dispose of stock quickly and appropriately to prevent the spread of disease to other stock and people, the contamination of waterways and access by dogs or other animals. See Waste management.
Animal Welfare Legislation
Observing these guidelines will ensure that you comply with the Code of Welfare: Dairy Cattle (2014) Minimum Standard No. 17 - Calf Management, and Minimum Standard No. 20 - Emergency Humane Destruction.
Questions and answers
Do I need training to use a captive bolt or firearm to put down livestock?
Yes, all methods of putting down animals require a level of skill to achieve a rapid and painless death with minimal distress. It is important that anyone putting down livestock on-farm is trained and competent.
How do I know if an animal has died?
1. No blinking if the surface of the eye is touched.
2. The pupils are dilated (big) and fixed.
3. The jaw is relaxed and the tongue is ‘floppy’.
4. There is no rhythmic breathing.
5. There is no regular heartbeat.
Do I need a firearms licence to own and operate a captive bolt?
No. There is no requirement to have a firearms licence to purchase or use a captive bolt, or to purchase activators (cartridges), but training is strongly recommended. Captive bolts and activators should be stored separately and securely when not being used.
Can I use a captive bolt to stun all classes of stock?
Yes you can but there are different colour coded activators for each class of stock.
Green = calves
Yellow = light cows
Blue = heavy cows
Red = bulls
Use of incorrect charges can result in ineffective stunning.
I don’t want any firearms or captive bolts on-farm, are there any other options?
Yes, the use of lethal injection is also a recommended method for humane slaughter but must be administered by a veterinarian. Extreme care must be taken when disposing of carcases to ensure the contaminated meat is not fed to any other animal or person.
What is an emergency situation?
An emergency situation is where an animal is experiencing severe pain or suffering that will become worse if they are not immediately treated or put down.
Humane slaughter - Information pack
Humane Slaughter Information Pack
The pack contains everything you need to know in a handy format:
- A guide outlining the legislation, basic requirements and responsibilities for the humane slaughter of calves and adult dairy cattle
- Approved methods
- Safety procedures
- A policy template for the farm office wall
- A poster providing easy-to-follow guidelines on how to prepare for, and carry out on-farm slaughter.
Download or order the pack.