Red and white meat slaughterhouses: standard operating procedures
What you need standard operating procedures for, the role of animal welfare officers, livestock unit limits, and record keeping in slaughterhouses.
All slaughterhouses (abattoirs) must meet the same animal welfare standards. If you operate a slaughterhouse you must have detailed instructions for each type of operation your staff carry out involving animals. These instructions are known as standard operating procedures (SOPs).
SOPs are designed to spare animals any avoidable pain or distress as part of Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (WATOK) regulations.
What you need SOPs for
You need separate SOPs for different types of animals, eg separate SOPs for unloading sheep and unloading cattle.
The operations that you must have SOPs for include:
- unloading animals
- keeping animals in holding pens and fields (lairage)
- moving and handling animals
- restraining animals
- stunning and killing animals
- monitoring the stunning of animals
- religious slaughter
- animal welfare officer (AWO) role and responsibilities
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) can ask to see your SOPs.
SOP for animal stunning
In your SOP for stunning you must:
- state the stunning method to be used and the relevant factors (parameters)
- include the manufacturer’s recommendations on using and maintaining the stunning equipment
- explain how to check an animal has been properly stunned and check for signs of consciousness and unconsciousness
- explain what to do if an animal hasn’t been properly stunned
Appoint an AWO
Red meat slaughterhouses
You must appoint at least 1 AWO if you operate a slaughterhouse that slaughters more than 1,000 livestock units a year. Some animals count as a whole livestock unit, others count as part of a unit.
|Animal||Number of livestock units|
|Adult cattle and horses||1 unit|
|Other cattle||0.5 unit|
|Pigs over 100 kg||0.2 unit|
|Other pigs||0.15 unit|
|Sheep and goats||0.1 unit|
|Lambs, kids and piglets under 15 kg||0.05 unit|
White meat slaughterhouses
You must appoint at least 1 AWO if you slaughter more than 150,000 birds or rabbits a year.
Read other white meat slaughterhouse requirements you must follow.
Role of an AWO
You must set out the AWO’s responsibilities in an SOP and give them, and all staff, a copy.
You must make sure that the AWO is present whenever you slaughter animals. The AWO must help all staff follow the rules on animal welfare.
You must give the AWO the authority to monitor any operations and put things right, for example correcting mistakes or reporting incidents to the manager.
Your AWO cannot be the same person as your on-site Food Standards Agency (FSA) vet - these are 2 different roles.
The AWO must hold a certificate of competence (CoC) for all operations they’re responsible for.
Keep records on animal welfare
Your AWO must record all action they take to improve animal welfare at your slaughterhouse. You must keep these records for at least a year - the FSA can ask to see them.
Keep records on checks
You should keep records when you do your regular checks on stunning, so you can check that stunning is being done efficiently.
You carry out these checks on a sample of animals after you’ve stunned them, to make sure they:
- don’t show signs of consciousness
- can’t feel pain
- maintain equipment for restraining and stunning in line with the manufacturer’s instructions
- keep records each time you carry out maintenance
- keep these records for at least a year - the FSA can ask to see them.
Records on stunning
You must keep records on stunning animals if you’re using new stunning equipment purchased since 1 January 2013.
These records will be required for all stunning equipment from 8 December 2019.
For each animal you stun, you must keep records on:
- electrical stunning - current, voltage and length of exposure
- gas stunning - gas concentrations and length of exposure
Published: 15 October 2015
Related guides: Red meat slaughterhouses: restraining, stunning, killing animals Red meat slaughterhouses: unloading, handling and holding animals White meat slaughterhouses: unloading, handling and holding, restraining, stunning, killing