Animal welfare

Advice and guidance on protecting animal welfare.

Applies to England

Follow this advice and guidance to protect animal welfare on your farm, at markets, slaughter and in transport.

You’re responsible for the welfare of any animals that you own or keep.

All farm animals are protected by animal welfare legislation.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 is the principal law relating to animal welfare, protecting all vertebrate animals.

Under the Act, owners and keepers have a duty of care to their animals and must make sure they meet their needs:

  • for a suitable environment and place to live
  • for a suitable diet
  • to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • to be housed with, or apart from, other animals (if applicable)
  • to be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease

The Act prohibits animal cruelty which includes:

  • causing unnecessary suffering to an animal
  • mutilation
  • poisoning an animal

Anyone who does not comply with the Act may:

  • be banned from owning animals
  • face an unlimited fine
  • be sent to prison for up to 5 years

On-farm animal welfare

If you keep animals on your farm, the following legislation also applies.

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 which are made under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and sets the minimum welfare standards for all farm animals. Schedule 1 sets out conditions under which all farm animals must be kept, with Schedules 2 to 9 providing additional species specific conditions.

The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007 are made under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which makes it an offence to carry out a prohibited procedure on a protected animal. For example, one which involves interference with the sensitive tissues or bone structure of an animal. The Mutilations Regulations 2007 lists those exemptions to which the prohibitions do not apply if certain conditions are met, such as ear tagging for the purposes of identification or castration for the control of reproduction.

For further information, read the guidance on farm animals: looking after their welfare including links to the species specific codes of practice.

Animal welfare at farm shows and markets

Read the guidance on protecting farm animals at shows and markets.

Animal welfare during transport

The welfare of animals during transport is protected by retained EU legislation.

You must transport animals in a way that is not likely to cause injury or undue suffering to them.

Read the guidance on animal welfare in transport.

Animal welfare in extreme weather

Read the guidance on transporting and caring for animals in extreme weather.

Animal welfare at slaughter

Read the guidance on animal welfare at the time of killing.

Further information

Updates to this page

Published 9 April 2013
Last updated 23 May 2024 + show all updates
  1. The guidance on animal welfare in transport has been moved to separate, dedicated pages. A link is provided under the heading 'Animal welfare during transport'.

  2. Removed out of date legislation references and added link to the on-farm animal welfare species specific codes of practice.

  3. Added information about control posts for resting livestock when they are being imported to, exported from, or transiting through Great Britain.

  4. Added a link to further government guidance on transporting and caring for animals in extreme weather.

  5. Added section ‘Check if a transporter is authorised’, including a link to the Great Britain type 2 transporter authorisation list.

  6. Updated to clarify that transport documents can be issued in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

  7. The legislation section has been updated to reflect the changes in maximum sentencing.

  8. Added that certificates and journey logs need to be GB or NI issued for transport in GB. Updated 'Vehicle inspection scheme and approval' section and Logistics UK contact details.

  9. Updated telephone number for Logistics UK. Updated section on Irish certificates of competence to confirm Defra recognises training carried out in Ireland when granting certificates of competence.

  10. We updated the transporting animals in Great Britain section to clarify that transporter authorisations issued in Northern Ireland are valid for transport within GB.

  11. Updated the guidance for animal welfare during transport. To transport live animals into the EU, UK transporters must apply to an EU member state for a transporter authorisation.

  12. WIT 21 – Guidance notes on the application forms - Welsh version updated

  13. WIT21 - Guidance notes on the application forms updated

  14. WIT21 guidance updated

  15. WIT6 – ATC template updated

  16. Factual errors fixed

  17. Added a link to slaughter detailed guide.

  18. First published.

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