Livestock at farm shows and markets: welfare regulations

Laws and regulations protecting farm animals at shows and markets, including the suitability of pens, cages or hutches


The Animal Welfare Act (2006) specifies that owners and keepers - including persons with temporary responsibility such as market operators - have a duty of care to ensure animals are protected at all times. Animals must have a suitable environment and diet, and be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns. Animals must be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease, and be housed according to their specific needs. This basic duty of care applies in all situations, including while at market and shows.

There is also specific legislation covering the welfare of animals at markets and shows. This includes the Welfare of Animals at Markets Order 1990 (as amended 1993) and the Welfare of Horses at Markets (and Other Places of Sale) Order 1990. The welfare of animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 and The Welfare of Animals (Transport) (Wales) Order 2007 also applies where animals are transported to and from the market.

This guide explains the legislation that protects animals when at shows or markets, your duties to protect an animal from injury and suffering, and regulations regarding the penning, caging and treatment of young animals.

Animal protection at markets

The market operator is responsible for overseeing the welfare of animals sold at markets and ensuring that they are cared for and treated humanely. It is the owner and market operator’s responsibility to ensure that no unfit animal is exposed for sale at market. The APHA and local authorities can remove animals from sale that are unfit and take further enforcement action, including the humane destruction of animals unfit for onward transport.

Poor animal treatment

If you have concerns about how animals are being treated at a market, show or other gathering, you should contact any of the following:

  • an animal welfare officer appointed by the market operator
  • a local authority inspector
  • APHA officials, including official veterinarians


There are strict penalties for cruelty to an animal or for failing to provide for its welfare. These apply whether the animal is at market, in transport or on the farm. The maximum penalties you may face are any - or all - of the following:

  • a ban from owning animals
  • a fine of up to £20,000
  • imprisonment

Animal welfare legislation and enforcement

The main legislation that governs animal welfare at shows and markets includes the:

  • Animal Welfare Act 2006
  • Welfare of Animals at Markets Order 1990 (WAMO)
  • Welfare of Animals at Markets (Amendment) Order 1993
  • Welfare of Horses at Markets (and Other Places of Sale) Order 1990 (WHAMOPSO)
  • Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006
  • Welfare of Animals (Transport) (Wales) Order 2007

Specific market legislation ensures a high standard of welfare for all animals passing through markets and creates specific rules that you should follow. The market rules apply as soon as any animal is unloaded at a show or market and remain in force until the animal is removed. The transport legislation ensures that unfit animals are not transported to or from a market.


WAMO reinforces general animal welfare provisions and aims to ensure animals are not caused injury or unnecessary suffering. It makes owners and keepers responsible for safeguarding animals and covers:

  • penning
  • food and water
  • care of young animals
  • unfit animals, injury or suffering

WAMO is enforced by local authorities, who identify problems at markets, and AHVLA officials, who regularly visit and inspect markets.


WHAMOPSO applies specifically to horses at shows and markets, and covers the same areas as WAMO.

Protection at shows

General animal welfare protection is covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. However, there are no specific welfare regulations for shows or other animal gatherings.

Show organisers often set conditions of entry to their event, which provides some guidance on the treatment of animals. If you intend to show livestock, you will receive the livestock schedule, which will detail the organiser’s conditions. The Animal Welfare Act requires all responsible persons to provide a duty of care to the animals wherever they are.

You should report any instances of compromise of animal welfare or evidence of unnecessary suffering at shows, markets or other gatherings to your local authority or nearest APHA.

For contact details of your local APHA use the postcode search tool on the APHA website.


Local authorities enforce health and welfare legislation at markets. APHA officials have powers under WAMO to detain, remove from sale, treat and take action to alleviate welfare compromise or suffering in markets.

Local authorities and APHA officials additionally have powers that can be used in markets and other animal gatherings under the Animal Welfare Act which include:

  • emergency powers in relation to animals in distress
  • powers of entry and inspection, including the power to seize documents
  • prosecution powers
  • improvement notices

General welfare provisions at market

You must ensure that you provide for the health and welfare of animals when at markets and shows. Animal health and welfare provisions when at markets and shows are covered under market legislation. This includes guidance on:

  • protection from injury and suffering
  • penning and caging
  • feeding and watering

Protection from injury and suffering

It is an offence to subject an animal to injury or suffering. You must never:

  • show an unfit animal for sale - this includes animals that are diseased, ill, injured, lame, deformed or emaciated, or animals likely to give birth
  • injure an animal or cause ‘unnecessary suffering’ - this includes exposure to adverse weather conditions, inadequate ventilation or poor handling
  • mishandle animals at market - this includes in ways such as lifting, dragging, suspension clear of ground, tying or muzzling calves or improperly tying poultry
  • control an animal with excessive force - there are also restrictions on the use of sticks, whips, crops and goads, including those capable of delivering electric shocks
  • drive or lead any animal over any ground or floor, the nature or condition of which is likely to cause the animal to slip or fall
  • knowingly obstruct an animal being led through the market
  • purposefully irritate an animal

Penning and caging

You must ensure that market staff place your animals in pens and cages in a way that does not put them at risk of injury or suffering. The market operator or other responsible person must ensure that:

  • pens, cages or hutches are suitable for the size and species of the animal, including allowing rabbits to sit and poultry to stand naturally
  • feeding, watering and bedding arrangements are sufficient
  • lighting and ventilation in pens is appropriate
  • accommodation for unfit animals can be provided

Pens and cages must be large enough for pigs and calves to lie down in them and where there are several animals sharing a pen, they must have sufficient space to be able to lie down at the same time. Cages and pens must never be overstocked.

Animals should be penned together with their own species and different species must not be mixed. You can help the market staff by advising them of groups that may be more suitable for mixing - e.g. those that have been reared together - and avoid mixing groups containing animals of different sizes unless they have been reared together.

You should also advise the market staff of animals which are less manageable and should be penned separately. This is particularly important for bulls, which must be kept separate unless groups have been reared together and it would be more distressing to separate them. In addition, all boars over the age of six months must be penned separately.

Feeding and watering

You must ensure that market staff can provide your animals with:

  • adequate wholesome water as often as possible - e.g. provided through troughs or buckets
  • food and water at least every 12 hours from their arrival at market

Where animals are kept overnight at the market, you must ensure they are provided with suitable food and wholesome water.

Additional requirements in markets for high risk groups

There are special provisions for the protection of young animals that have a higher risk of their welfare being compromised in addition to the general provisions for animal welfare at shows and markets.

These additional provisions relate to:

  • the availability of covered accommodation and bedding for young animals
  • the welfare of calves, lambs and kids
  • the welfare of foals

Covered accommodation and bedding provision

Market operators must ensure young animals have covered accommodation when they are at market. This rule applies to:

  • calves (all cattle under six months of age)
  • dairy cows in milk or in calf
  • pigs
  • goats
  • rabbits
  • poultry
  • lambs less than four weeks old, unless kept with the mother

Bedding must be provided for:

  • calves under six months
  • dairy cattle in milk or in calf
  • goats in milk or in kid
  • pigs
  • any lambs - unless kept with dam - less than four weeks old
  • any goat kids less than four weeks old

You must follow certain regulations if you have any young animals to market. These differ depending on what type of animal you are selling.


You must ensure that calves:

  • under 7 days old or with unhealed navels are not brought to market
  • under 12 weeks are only at a market once in a 28-day period - you may bring calves to a market for a second time within the same 28-day period, providing you have written documentation stating the address of the previous market and the date on which the calf was brought there
  • are removed from market within four hours from the last sale
  • are not tied or muzzled when in pens

Market operators must keep clear records on calves at markets. You must:

  • keep a record of the details supplied to the purchaser of a calf
  • retain the record for at least six months
  • present records to an inspector if asked

Lambs and kids

You must ensure that lambs and kids:

  • with unhealed navels are not exposed for sale
  • have draught-free and comfortable accommodation that allows them to lie down
  • are sold in the pen and removed from the market as soon as possible


The Welfare of Horses at Markets (and Other Places of Sale) Order 1990 creates additional regulations that must be followed when foals are at shows or markets. You must ensure that each foal is brought for sale with its mother and is not separated from its mother when at market.

Protection of Animal Welfare at Livestock Markets

The Strategy for the Protection of Animal Welfare at Livestock Markets 1998 was launched to improve welfare standards at markets.

The main aims of the strategy were to:

  • simplify and explain who is responsible for animal welfare at markets
  • encourage market operators to use market welfare officers
  • highlight the benefits of the codes of practice
  • address the most important welfare issues with specific action plans
  • encourage communication between market bodies
  • consistently monitor welfare standards to deal with areas of concern

As part of the strategy’s follow-up work, an action plan was developed for the APHA to continue attending markets to ensure that the animals are treated humanely. The APHA now hold regular meetings with market operators to review inspections due to the success of these procedures.

Monitoring compliance and improving performance

The APHA carries out market inspections on operating markets twice a year to check that they are conforming to the strategy. The visits are to assess general standards at markets and check how markets subject to enforcement orders are progressing.

Strategy visits help to enforce consistent welfare standards at all markets. They help to ensure that:

  • The APHA can observe the frequency of welfare problems
  • market operators’ standards are high
  • market operators can identify problems early
  • local authorities can monitor how markets are run
  • enforcement agencies can efficiently sort out potential problems

Further information on farmed animal welfare at shows and markets

Several organisations offer support and advice to farmers about the welfare of animals at shows and markets.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) aims to help the farming industry operate as efficiently as possible. Defra administers European Commission support policies that provide around £3 billion to UK agriculture. They also oversee a number of agencies that work with farmers, regulate imports and exports of crops, and implement pest and disease controls. For more information on this you can call the Defra Helpline on Tel 08459 33 55 77.

The APHA is a government agency responsible for ensuring that farmed animals in the UK are healthy and well cared for. By working with local authorities, APHA officers - who are based in regional APHAs - carry out farm inspections to enforce farmed animal welfare law.

For contact details of your local APHA use the postcode search tool on the APHA website.

Local authority and AHO animal welfare enforcement powers include:

  • emergency powers in relation to animals in distress
  • powers of entry and inspection, including the power to seize documents
  • prosecution powers
  • the authority to serve improvement notices

It is an offence to obstruct an inspector in the course of their duty.

You will come into contact with local authorities over a number of animal welfare, farming, land use, food standards and environmental regulations. Your local authority may also be able to provide further information or resources.

In England, the Farm Advisory System advises farmers about cross compliance. For further information, call the Cross Compliance Helpline on Tel 0845 345 1302. Alternatively, you can find information on cross compliance requirements.

Natural England is another Defra agency that works to ensure sustainable use and management of the natural environment. It hosts events around the country, including cross compliance farm walks and farming drop-in clinics.

Read about the work and services of Natural England on the Natural England website.

For Wales, go to Natural Resources Wales on the Natural Resources Wales website.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and Rural Payment Wales (RPW) are responsible for licences and schemes for farmers, as well as for running the Single Payment Scheme (SPS). For more information about SPS and how it can help your farming business, you can call the RPA Helpline on Tel 0345 603 7777 or contact RPW on 0300 062 5004.

You can also read the guide on SPS.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) represents the farmers and growers of England and Wales. It aims to promote successful and socially responsible agriculture and horticulture, while ensuring the long-term viability of rural communities.

You can read about the work of the NFU on the NFU website or NFU Cymru website.


The aim of this legislation is to ensure a high standard of welfare for all animals passing through markets.

These rules apply from the moment animals are unloaded at arrival, through to their care as they depart. A summary of the main provisions is given below. The current legislation was made in 1990 and was considered by the Farm Animal Welfare Council - now the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) as part of its review of the welfare of animals at markets, including livestock markets and horse and pony sales. FAWC published their review (the welfare of farmed animals at gatherings) in June 2005.


Local authorities have primary responsibility for enforcing welfare legislation at markets. Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) also has a role to play in helping to ensure that high standards are consistently achieved. APHA maintains a presence at markets to monitor compliance.

Further information

Download the Farm Animal Welfare Council’s farmed animals at gatherings welfare guidance from the Agricultural Document Library website (PDF, 624K)

Animal welfare news and guidance on the Defra website

Farming and land stewardship information on the Natural England website

Farming advice on the NFU website

RPA Helpline

0345 603 7777

Cross Compliance Helpline

0845 345 1302

Defra Helpline

08459 33 55 77

Published 29 August 2012
Last updated 18 June 2019 + show all updates
  1. Welsh Translation now available

  2. Changed "under 12 weeks old are only exposed at market once in 28 days, for which you must provide written documentation attesting this fact" to " under 12 weeks are only at a market once in a 28-day period - you may bring calves to a market for a second time within the same 28-day period, providing you have written documentation stating the address of the previous market and the date on which the calf was brought there"

  3. First published.