Guidance

Slaughter poultry, livestock and rabbits for home consumption

How you can legally kill your own pigs, sheep, goats, cattle, poultry, rabbits and hares to eat at home.

You don’t need a licence to kill animals to eat at home, provided:

  • you own the animal and you kill it on your property
  • you’re killing it for you or your immediate family who live on your property to eat

You could be prosecuted if you don’t follow the rules in this guide.

You can’t kill animals in accordance with religious rites at home.

Stun animals before killing

You must always stun animals before killing. This is known as a ‘simple stun’, which makes an animal unconscious immediately but does not instantly kill it. Animals must remain unconscious until they’re dead.

You must kill the animal immediately after you’ve stunned it - use a killing method like bleeding.

Stunning animals

If you kill an animal to eat on your property, you need to know how to:

  • restrain, stun and kill the animal humanely and quickly
  • avoid causing the animal any avoidable pain, distress or suffering

Stunning poultry

Cervical (neck) dislocation

If you have no other method of stunning poultry available, you can stun birds up to 3kg by dislocating their necks by hand. You can kill up to 70 birds a day in this way.

You can mechanically dislocate birds’ necks on birds up to 5kg.

If birds weigh more than 5kg you must use another method such as electrical stunning.

Bleeding poultry

After you’ve stunned a bird, you must immediately cut the 2 carotid arteries in the neck properly so the bird bleeds out quickly and completely. You must make sure the animal dies quickly without regaining consciousness.

You must wait until the bird is dead until you do anything to it, eg pluck it.

You must wait for birds to bleed out for the following amounts of time:

  • turkey or geese - at least 2 minutes
  • other birds - at least 90 seconds

Stunning rabbits and hares

You must stun a rabbit or hare before bleeding it, using one of the following methods:

  • a blow to the head, for rabbits that weigh 5kg or less
  • penetrative captive bolt
  • non-penetrative captive bolt, ie a bolt which doesn’t penetrate the skull but kills by percussion
  • firearm with free projectile (like a shotgun)
  • head-only electrical stunning using electric tongs
  • head-to-body electrical stunning using electric tongs

Bleeding rabbits

After you’ve stunned rabbits, you must immediately cut both arteries in the neck, so they bleed quickly. They must remain unconscious until death.

Stunning and killing pigs, sheep, goats, deer or cattle

Restraining

Unless you’re using a firearm to kill pigs, sheep, goats, deer or cattle, you must restrain them without causing them pain, suffering or distress.

Stunning by penetrative captive bolt

You can use a penetrative captive bolt device to stun any species but you need to then kill the animal after it’s unconscious.

You must:

  • check the bolt has retracted fully after each shot - if not, don’t use the device until it’s fixed
  • shoot animals in the correct position - you must not shoot cattle or any bovine animals like bison or buffalo in the back of the head

If you’re stunning sheep and goats with horns by penetrative captive bolt, you must:

  • aim the shot just behind the base of the horns and towards the mouth
  • bleed or kill an animal within 15 seconds of shooting it

Stunning by non-penetrative captive bolt

You can only use non-penetrative captive bolt devices to stun cattle, sheep and goats that weigh less than 10kg.

You must apply the captive bolt in the proper position.

Stunning using guns

You can use a gun to stun and kill an animal but you must use the correct power and calibre of cartridge for the type of animal. Read the manufacturer’s instructions issued with your firearm to find this information.

Stunning animals using electricity

You can use electrical equipment to stun an animal but not to electro-immobilise it. You must:

  • make sure there’s a good electrical contact with the animal
  • the electrodes must span the brain of the animal and be adapted for the size of the animal

Read the Humane Slaughter Association’s guidance on electrical stunning of animals.

You must use the following minimum currents:

  • for cattle 6 months old or older - 1.28 amps
  • for cattle younger than 6 months - 1.25 amps
  • for sheep and goats - 1.0 amps
  • for pigs - 1.3 amps
  • chicken - 240 milliamps
  • turkeys - 400 milliamps

After you’ve stunned an animal using electricity you must kill it immediately.

Bleeding cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and deer

After you’ve stunned cattle, sheep, goats, pigs or deer, you can kill them by bleeding or pithing.

You must cut the 2 carotid arteries in an animal’s neck to bleed it. You need to:

  • begin the bleeding immediately after you’ve stunned the animal to ensure it dies quickly
  • make sure the animal doesn’t regain consciousness before it dies

You must wait the following amounts of time for the bleeding to stop before you dress or scald it:

  • 30 seconds for cattle
  • 20 seconds for sheep, deer, pigs and goats
Published 16 October 2015