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 still have a WASK licence

A Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) (WASK) licence was valid until 8 December 2015. This includes WASK licences for slaughtering on farm or at a knacker’s yard.

You now need a temporary CoC to continue to work in a slaughterhouse or a Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (WATOK) licence for killing operations outside a slaughterhouse.

Apply for a temporary or full CoC

You must be 18 or over to get a temporary or full CoC, except for the following activities - you must be 16 or over for these:

  • 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 don’t 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 either:

  • the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH)
  • 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 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.

Apply for a WATOK licence. 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 don’t 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 don’t need a WATOK licence

You don’t 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 won’t be eaten by people
  • kill poultry by cervical dislocation where there are no other methods available and the bird won’t be eaten by people - you must do this on the farm where the bird was reared
  • kill an animal for reasons that aren’t covered by the EU regulations, eg 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. It costs £25.

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.

A CoC is recognised in all EU member states.

When your CoC or licence can be revoked or suspended

The FSA can revoke or temporarily suspend your CoC or WATOK licence if you don’t follow WATOK regulations.

Find out more about penalties.

Published 15 October 2015
Last updated 6 November 2015 + show all updates
  1. WATOK licence application form added.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. First published.