Slaughter without stunning

How to legally carry out slaughter without stunning in accordance with religious rites, including how to restrain and bleed the animal.

Applies to England

You must stun all animals before you slaughter them unless an animal is being slaughtered in accordance with religious rites, for halal or kosher meat.

To meet the requirements for slaughter without stunning:

  • it must take place in a slaughterhouse (abattoir) approved by the Food Standards Agency (FSA)
  • it must be done by someone who has a certificate of competence (CoC)
  • the slaughter must be done in a way that follows Jewish or Islamic religious practice
  • the meat must be intended for consumption by Jewish or Muslim people

You can only carry out slaughter without stunning of:

  • bovine animals (including calves).
  • sheep
  • goats
  • birds (chickens, turkeys, ducks, guinea fowl, geese or quails)

A significant proportion of halal meat comes from animals that are stunned before slaughter.

Requirements for slaughter without stunning for kosher meat

To perform shechita (slaughter by the Jewish method), you must:

Requirements for slaughter without stunning for halal meat

You must be a Muslim to slaughter animals for halal meat.

Slaughter for Qurbani

The same rules apply if you’re slaughtering an animal for Qurbani (Udhia) as for any type of halal slaughter.

What to check before slaughter

Before you slaughter any animals (including birds), you must check the knife is undamaged. It must be sharp and large enough for the animal being slaughtered.

When slaughtering sheep, goats, or cattle, you must keep the back-up stunning equipment close to the restraining equipment, so that it can be used immediately if an animal:

  • experiences avoidable pain, suffering or agitation
  • has been injured

Restraining and slaughtering cattle

You must restrain the animal upright in an approved restraining pen before it’s slaughtered.

The FSA must check and approve any new restraining pen before you use it for the slaughter of cattle without stunning.

If you modify a pen that’s already been approved, you must get it approved again.

You must only put the animal in the pen immediately before you’re ready to slaughter it, to avoid causing the animal unnecessary stress or discomfort. You must make sure your restraining pen:

  • is kept in good working order
  • is checked and maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • does not cause any avoidable pain, suffering or injury to animals

Restraining pens for cattle must:

  • effectively restrain an animal
  • have a head restraint
  • have a support to take the weight of the animal during slaughter
  • permit only one animal to enter

  • confine an animal without discomfort
  • prevent an animal from making any large movements forwards, backwards or sideways when it’s restrained

Restraining and slaughtering sheep and goats

To slaughter a sheep or goat, you must:

  • restrain animals individually
  • use mechanical restraining equipment
  • kill one animal at a time
  • only put an animal in restraining equipment when you’re ready to kill it

You must ensure that restraining equipment is:

  • checked and maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • only used in the way described in the manufacturer’s instructions

Restraining methods you must never use

When restraining an animal, you must never:

  • clamp or tie its legs or feet
  • sever its spinal cord
  • immobilise it with electrical stunning equipment or any device that gives an electric shock
  • suspend or hoist a conscious animal (except poultry)


To bleed any animals (including birds), you must use:

  • a hand-held knife that’s sharp and large enough for the animal you’re slaughtering
  • quick, uninterrupted movements of the knife

Cattle, sheep and goats

You must cut both an animal’s carotid arteries and its jugular veins.


You must cut both carotid arteries.

Check for unconsciousness and signs of life

After bleeding any animal (including birds) and waiting the required amount of time, you must check that the animal is unconscious. Check the standard operating procedures for your slaughterhouse to find out how to do this.

After you bleed cattle, sheep or goats, you (or your equipment) must not move the animal until it is unconscious and in any event not before:

  • 30 seconds for cattle
  • 20 seconds for sheep or goats

After you bleed a bird, you (or your equipment) must not perform any further dressing procedure or electrical stimulation if it presents any signs of life and in any event not before:

  • 2 minutes – turkeys or geese
  • 90 seconds – any other bird

Signs of life

You must wait until the animal is dead before you can begin dressing or scalding the animal. If you detect signs of life, you must stun and kill the animal immediately using a method in your slaughterhouse’s standard operating procedures.

You can find more information in European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) guides on monitoring for unconsciousness and checking for signs of life for:

Published 15 October 2015
Last updated 5 June 2023 + show all updates
  1. Content has been reviewed as part of improvements to the welfare of animals at the time of killing pages. Updates approved by Welfare at Slaughter team.

  2. First published.