You must be licensed by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to operate as a slaughterman in Northern Ireland.
This applies to anyone who:
- stuns, slaughters or kills animals
- restrains animals for the purpose of stunning, slaughtering or killing
- piths stunned animals
- shackles or hoists stunned animals
- bleeds animals which are not dead
- assesses effective stunning or killing
However, you don’t need a licence to:
- kill an animal in an emergency (eg where it’s in distress)
- slaughter your own animals for private consumption
- slaughter or kill for a non-commercial purpose
- kill animals as a means of notifiable disease control in accordance with the specific requirements of the regulations
- shoot animals in the field
- dislocate the necks of or decapitate poultry on agricultural premises where the birds were raised
- kill surplus chicks or embryos in hatchery waste
- shackle birds before stunning
- operate automatic equipment that stuns, slaughters or kills animals - as long as this doesn’t require you to carry out any of the above activities for which a licence is required
- slaughter or kill animals under veterinary supervision
Before applying for a licence, you must obtain a certificate of competence from a veterinary surgeon authorised by DARD. You must satisfy them that you:
- are able to carry out such activities without causing considerable avoidable pain, suffering or excitement to any animal
- have sufficient knowledge of the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996 and other legislation, as well as any supporting codes of practice
- are fit and proper to hold a certificate
- are not below the age of 18
If you’re applying for a provisional slaughterman licence, you don’t need a certificate of competence, but you must satisfy an authorised veterinary surgeon that you’re fit and proper and at least 18 years old. Under a provisional licence, you may only work in the presence of a full licence holder, covering the same species, operations and equipment or a veterinary surgeon.
You must notify DARD if you have been refused a licence to slaughter animals, had a licence revoked or been convicted under any animal welfare legislation.
If you’re applying for a full slaughterman licence, you must also include:
- your certificate of competence
- two passport sized photographs, with your name in block capitals on the back of each
No fee is payable for a certificate of competence, provisional licence or full licence.
You can apply online or download forms from the DARD website. The same form is used to apply for a certificate of competence, provisional licence or full licence.
If you get your licence, it will state which operations you’re licensed to carry out, which species of animal you may carry out operations on and the equipment or instruments you can use.
Additional requirements apply to the slaughter and killing of animals other than at a slaughterhouse or knacker’s yard.
The slaughter of animals without stunning to meet Jewish and Muslim religious requirements must only be carried out in approved slaughterhouses.
If you wish to slaughter animals for food using the Jewish religious method (shechita), instead of a certificate of competence you may obtain a licence from the Rabbinical Commission for the Licensing of Shochetim in England and Wales or the Chief Rabbi in Scotland. You must then submit this with your application for a slaughterman licence.
Fines and penalties
You may be fined and/or imprisoned if you don’t follow these requirements.