Guidance

Get a certificate of competence or licence to slaughter or kill animals

The licence or certificate you need to slaughter or kill animals, the operations covered, and how to apply.

Slaughter inside an FSA-approved slaughterhouse

You need a certificate of competence (CoC) from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to do any of the following in an FSA-approved slaughterhouse:

  • handle animals before they’re restrained
  • restrain animals for stunning or killing
  • stun animals
  • check stunning has worked
  • shackle or hoisting live animals
  • bleed live animals
  • religious slaughter
  • pithing of a stunned animal
  • check pithing has worked

What your CoC must cover

Your CoC must cover each type of animal you work with and each operation that you carry out.

If you stun animals, your CoC must cover the different types of equipment you use.

If you need to add more operations or types of animal to your CoC, you must get a temporary CoC and complete training and assessment for the additional operation or animal.

Handling animals before restraint, killing with a free bullet, shackling poultry: CoC or temporary CoC

You need a full or temporary CoC if you do any of the following:

  • handle animals before restraining them
  • kill an animal with a free bullet for human consumption
  • shackle poultry

If you hold a CoC issued in an EU member state

From 1 January 2021, the UK will not recognise a CoC issued in EU member states. To continue working from 1 January 2021, anyone holding a CoC issued outside the UK will need to apply for a UK CoC.

EU member states will also not recognise UK CoCs once the UK has left the EU. If you want to work as a slaughterer in an EU member state, you will need to apply for a CoC there.

Apply for a temporary or full CoC

You must be 18 or over to get a temporary or full CoC.

If you’re 16 or over, you can do following activities without a temporary or full CoC:

  • handling and care of animals before restraint
  • shackling live poultry

Check the activities that you need a temporary or full CoC for.

When you apply, you need to tell the FSA in writing if you’ve ever:

  • been convicted of an animal welfare offence
  • been refused a licence in relation to killing an animal or a related operation
  • had such a licence revoked (cancelled) or suspended

Temporary CoC

A temporary CoC is free and valid for 3 months. You can apply for a temporary CoC if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • you work in a slaughterhouse
  • you do not have a full CoC for an operation you’re doing
  • you’ve registered on an approved training course

You can work in a slaughterhouse with a temporary CoC as long as you’re supervised by someone who has a full CoC that covers both of the following:

  • the types of animal being slaughtered
  • the operations you’re doing

You can get a temporary CoC from an official vet (OV) at an FSA-approved slaughterhouse.

Apply for a temporary CoC.

Temporary CoC: training

To get a temporary CoC you must register to train with an approved trainer accredited by FDQ.

You’ll need to show the OV evidence that you’ve registered before you can get your temporary CoC.

During the 3 months that your temporary CoC is valid, you must:

  • complete your training
  • successfully pass the assessment

Once that’s done you’ll get a ‘qualification certificate’ - you can then apply for a full CoC.

Applying for a full CoC

Apply for a full CoC. It costs £25.

Adding operations to your existing CoC costs £8.

Slaughter or killing outside of an FSA-approved slaughterhouse

You must have either a Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (WATOK) licence or a CoC to carry out any of the relevant operations below and you either:

The relevant operations are:

  • restraining animals for stunning or killing
  • stunning animals
  • assessing if stunning has worked
  • shackling or hoisting live animals
  • bleeding live animals
  • pithing of a stunned animal and checking this is effective

Applying for a WATOK licence.

Before you can Apply for a WATOK licence you need an assessment from APHA vet.

You must pay £25 for a new licence or £8 to amend an existing licence.

What your licence must cover

Your licence must cover all types of:

  • animal you kill
  • operations you do
  • equipment you use

Supervision if you do not have a WATOK licence

Until you have a WATOK licence, you must only carry out these operations when supervised by either:

  • someone who has a WATOK licence or CoC for that operation
  • a vet

You must be 18 or over to get a WATOK licence.

When you do not need a WATOK licence

You do not need a WATOK licence if you:

  • kill livestock at home to be eaten by your family
  • are supervised by a vet
  • are supervised by a WATOK or relevant CoC licence holder
  • kill an animal in an emergency
  • are a vet, killing an animal as part of your job
  • kill surplus chicks or embryos in hatchery waste
  • kill animals for public health, animal health, animal welfare or environmental reasons
  • kill an animal in a field using a free bullet, if the animal will not be eaten by people
  • kill poultry by cervical dislocation where there are no other methods available and the bird will not be eaten by people - you must do this on the farm where the bird was reared
  • kill an animal for reasons that are not covered by the EU regulations, such as hunting or fishing

Assessment for a WATOK licence

An APHA vet must assess whether you have enough knowledge of relevant animal welfare regulations and guidance and whether you’re competent to:

  • carry out the procedure
  • use the type of equipment
  • work with the type of animal

Find an APHA vet using the APHA website.

The vet will give you a ‘certificate of assessment’ once they’re satisfied you can do these without causing avoidable pain, suffering or distress.

The vet will charge you the following for the assessment:

  • £76 for the first 30 minutes
  • £21 for each additional 30 minutes

You must also pay any costs for the vet to travel to your location.

Once you have the certificate of assessment, you can apply for a WATOK licence.

You need to tell the FSA in writing if you’ve ever:

  • been convicted of an animal welfare offence
  • been refused a licence in relation to killing an animal or a related operation
  • had such a licence revoked or suspended

Using your Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales licence

If you have a CoC or a WATOK licence issued in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, you can use it in England for the procedures, equipment and animals listed.

When your CoC or licence can be revoked or suspended

The FSA can cancel or temporarily suspend your CoC or WATOK licence if you do not follow WATOK regulations.

EU slaughterers who want to work in the UK

From 1 January 2021, EU slaughterers who are:

  • already resident in the UK can be eligible for ‘settled status’ - EU citizens will have until 31st December 2020 to apply for status under the scheme

  • not a resident in the UK before 1 January 2021 will be able to work in the UK for an interim period (following the end of free movement and before the UK’s new skills-based immigration system begins in 2021, you will need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain to stay longer than three months)

Find out more about penalties.

Published 15 October 2015
Last updated 3 April 2019 + show all updates
  1. Update on CoC acceptance by UK or the EU following EU Exit, Removed "If you still have a WASK licence" paragraph, added rules about EU workers

  2. WATOK licence application form added.

  3. Deleted '8 December 2015' from this sentence: "You’ll now need a CoC or temporary CoC from 8 December 2015 if you do any of the following:". Removed 'by 5 November 2015' to the end of the sentence "If you don’t meet both of the above requirements, you must apply for a temporary CoC." Clarified the next two sentences, as a result of the changes previously made.

  4. We've updated the deadline by which you need to apply for a temporary certificate of competence. This deadline applies if you currently handle animals before restraining them, kill an animal with a free bullet for human consumption, or shackle poultry.

  5. First published.