Slaughterhouses, knacker's yards and farms: inspections and penalties
Animal welfare inspections, powers inspectors have, enforcement notices and penalties for places that kill animals.
Your premises can be inspected to make sure you’re following Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (WATOK) regulations.
The person who inspects your premises and enforces the regulations will be:
- an official vet from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), for a slaughterhouse inspection
- an officer from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) or the local authority, for an inspection of a knacker’s yard, farm or small-scale local supplier
Notice for an inspection
You’ll usually get reasonable notice of an inspection, although there’s no specific notice period that you must be given.
The inspector won’t give you notice:
- if they’ve not been able to make an appointment with you
- if giving you notice means their visit could be less effective, eg if they suspect you’re breaking the law
- in an emergency
What happens during an inspection
The inspector can:
- bring to the inspection anyone they think is necessary
- examine all land, buildings, containers or vehicles on your premises - they can’t come into your home unless they have a warrant
- ask you questions
- examine and test anything
- watch anything that’s happening at your premises
- make recordings and take photos
- take away a part or all of any animal or carcass
- check or take away any computer or equipment, including computer equipment
- ask you to show them any document so they can read it or copy it
- ask anyone at your business for help, information, equipment or facilities to carry out their work
If an inspector takes anything away you’ll get a receipt. You’ll get your things back when they’ve finished inspecting them. There’s no time limit in which they have to return them to you.
If an inspector’s going to use anything in a court case, you won’t get it back until the court case is over.
If you’re away
If an inspector visits your premises when you’re not there, they must leave your premises as secure as when they went in.
When you could be prosecuted
You can be prosecuted if you breach EU or WATOK regulations. Offences include:
- operating without a valid certificate of competence (CoC) or WATOK licence
- failing to meet the requirements for a slaughterhouse
- failing to meet the requirements for killing other than in a slaughterhouse (such as on a farm)
- failing to meet the requirements and guidelines for religious slaughter
- killing animals other than those which the EU regulation applies to
- not complying with an enforcement notice
- intentionally obstructing an inspector
- giving an inspector misleading information
- failing to help an inspector unless you have a good reason not to help them
- not giving the inspector any information that’s relevant for the inspection
- not giving to or showing the inspector any documents that are relevant for the inspection
When a company can be prosecuted
If a corporate body (eg a company or institution) is guilty of an offence, its director or secretary (or anyone acting as one) may also be guilty of an offence.
This can happen if it’s proved that they either:
- consented to the offence
- were involved in the offence through ‘connivance’ (eg they secretly knew about it)
Penalties you could receive
If you commit an offence you’ll have to appear at a magistrates’ court.
If you’re found guilty of an offence you could be either:
- given an unlimited fine
- put in prison for up to 3 months
When you could get an enforcement notice
An inspector may issue you a written enforcement notice if they think you’re breaking the law.
An enforcement notice can tell you to:
- correct an illegal procedure or piece of equipment
- reduce the rate of your operation until you’ve put things right
- stop you from carrying out a procedure or using facilities or a piece of equipment until you’ve put things right
The enforcement notice will include:
- your name
- the time and date of the notice
- how you’ve breached the regulations
- what you must to do to put things right
- when you have to do it by
- how you can appeal
If you put things right
You’ll get a completion notice if the inspector’s satisfied that you’ve put things right.
If the inspector thinks you still have more to do, you’ll be told why, and how you can appeal.
When your certificate or licence could be suspended or revoked
Your CoC, temporary CoC or WATOK licence could be suspended or revoked (cancelled) if you:
- have broken animal welfare rules
- have been convicted of an offence relating to animals
- are no longer a ‘fit and proper’ person to hold a certificate or licence
- are no longer capable of carrying out a procedure
When you can appeal
You can appeal if you think that:
- you shouldn’t have received an enforcement notice
- you should have received a completion notice
- you shouldn’t have had a CoC or WATOK licence suspended or revoked
- the FSA shouldn’t have refused to give you a licence or CoC
You must appeal within 28 days using and following the process in the appeals form.
The FSA or APHA must reply to you and the tribunal within 28 days. Once they’ve done this, you must reply to the tribunal and the FSA or APHA within 14 days.
Tribunal hearings for appeals
If your appeal goes to a tribunal hearing, the court will set a date for the hearing that suits everyone. The judge will give everyone a fair chance to speak.
You can ask the judge to keep a hearing or certain information in the hearing private. It’s up to the judge to decide on this.
You can ask someone to represent you at the hearing. They don’t need to be legally qualified but you must tell the tribunal and the FSA or APHA if they’re not.
If you want to save time you can agree to the tribunal making a decision on your case without a hearing. This is called a ‘consent order’. However, the hearing can still go ahead if you, the FSA or APHA insist on it.
Cancelling your appeal
You can write to the tribunal if you decide you don’t want to carry on with your appeal. The tribunal will usually agree to cancel your appeal - it might not cancel it if it believes it has good reason.
If you change your mind about your decision not to carry on with your appeal, you can write to the tribunal. The tribunal must be informed of this decision within 28 days of when it was informed that you didn’t want to carry on, otherwise the appeal won’t go ahead.
Published: 15 October 2015
Related guides: Red meat slaughterhouses: restraining, stunning, killing animals Red meat slaughterhouses: unloading, handling and holding animals Knacker's yards and farms: restraining, stunning, killing animals Knacker's yard and on-farm killing: standard operating procedures