How to legally carry out religious slaughter, including how to restrain and bleed the animal.
You must stun all animals before you slaughter them unless an animal is being religiously slaughtered for halal or kosher meat.
You must meet all of the following requirements for halal and kosher religious slaughter:
- 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 Jews or Muslims
You can only carry out religious slaughter of:
- cattle (and all bovine animals, including calves)
- birds (chickens, turkeys, ducks, guinea fowl, geese or quails)
Requirements to slaughter for kosher meat
To perform shechita (Jewish religious slaughter), you must:
- be a Jew
- have a licence to perform shechita from the Rabbinical Commission for the Licensing of Shochetim
Requirements to slaughter 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.
Things to check before slaughter
Before you slaughter any animal (including birds), you must check the knife is undamaged. It must be sharp and large enough for the animal being slaughtered
For any animal, you must keep the back-up stunning equipment close to the restraining equipment so that it can be used immediately when an animal:
- experiences avoidable pain, suffering or agitation
- has been injured
Restrain and slaughter cattle
You must restrain the animal upright in an approved restraining pen before it’s slaughtered.
The FSA must check and approve your pen before you use it for the religious slaughter of cattle.
If the FSA or a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) minister has previously approved your pen to restrain cattle for religious slaughter, you don’t need to get new approval. 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 unnecessary stress or discomfort for the animal.
You must make sure your restraining pen:
- is kept in good working order
- is checked and maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions
- doesn’t 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
Restrain and slaughter sheep and goats
To slaughter a sheep or goat, you must:
- restrain animals individually
- use mechanical restraining equipment
- only 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
You must never restrain an animal by:
- clamping or tying its legs or feet
- severing its spinal cord
- immobilising it with electrical stunning equipment or any device that gives an electric shock
- suspending or hoisting a conscious animal
For any animal (including birds), you must use:
- a hand-held knife that’s sharp and large enough for the animal you’re slaughtering
- rapid, 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, the animal must not be moved by either you or your equipment until the animal is unconscious and you’ve waited at least:
- 30 seconds for cattle
- 20 seconds for sheep or goats
After you bleed a bird, you or your equipment must restrain it and wait at least:
- 2 minutes for turkeys or geese
- 90 seconds for any other bird
Signs of life
You must wait until the animal is dead before the next operation, eg removing the hide or plucking, can start. 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: