Sheep (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB5162)

Health: Casualties


  1. Injured, ailing or distressed sheep should be identified and treated without delay; Where the shepherd is able to identify the cause of ill health, he or she should take immediate remedial action. When in doubt, veterinary advice should be obtained as soon as possible.
  2. Provision should be made, and used when necessary, for the segregation and care of sick or injured animals. Unfit sheep (including infirm, diseased, ill and injured animals) should be removed from flocks.
  3. If an unfit sheep does not respond to treatment, it should be culled or humanely killed on-farm. It is an offence to cause, or to allow, unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress by leaving a sheep to suffer.
  4. In an emergency, it may be necessary to kill an animal immediately to prevent suffering. In such cases, the animal should be destroyed in a humane manner and, where possible, by a person experienced and/or trained both in the techniques and the equipment used for killing sheep.
  5. If animals are killed or slaughtered on-farm, other than in an emergency; the operation may only be carried out using a permitted method and in accordance with current welfare at slaughter legislation.

It is a general offence under the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 (S.I. 1995 No. 731) as amended by the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) (Amendment) Regulations 1999 (S.I. 1999 No 400), to cause or permit any avoidable excitement, pain or suffering to any animal during slaughter or killing (Regulation 4(1)). The general offence applies in all cases, but the detailed provisions in respect to the method of slaughter or killing do not apply when an animal has to be killed immediately for emergency reasons (Regulation 13(2)).

When an animal is slaughtered or killed on farm, this must be done using a permitted method. The animal could be:

  • stunned using a captive bolt pistol, concussion stunner or electrical stunner after which it must be followed by bleeding or pithed without delay (Regulation 14 and Schedule 5 (Part II) and 6). If the animal is stunned and bled, the operation must be carried out by a slaughterman licensed for these operations (Schedule 1), unless the owner is slaughtering an animal for his own consumption; or
  • killed by a free bullet (Regulation 15 and Schedule 5 Part III); the animal should be killed with a single shot to the head.

  1. An unfit sheep may be transported only if it is being taken for veterinary treatment/diagnosis or is going to the nearest available place of slaughter and then only provided it is transported in a way which is not going to cause it further suffering. Further advice can be found in a MAFF booklet which gives guidance on the transport of casualty farm animals (see Appendix).

    Articles 4(2) and 6(1) of the Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 1997 (S.I. 1997 No 1480) respectively provide that:

    • No person shall transport any animal in a way which causes or is likely to cause injury or unnecessary suffering to that animal.
    • No person shall transport any animal unless:
      • It is fit for the intended journey; and
      • Suitable provision has been made for its care during the journey and on arrival at the place of destination.
    • For these purposes an animal shall not be considered fit for its intended journey if it is ill, injured, infirm or fatigued, unless it is only slightly ill, injured, infirm or fatigued and the intended journey is not likely to cause it unnecessary suffering.
    • Not withstanding the above, any sheep may be transported to the nearest available place for veterinary treatment or diagnosis, or to the nearest available place of slaughter, if the animal is not likely to be subject to unnecessary suffering by reason of its unfitness. However, an animal so transported may not be dragged or pushed by any means, or lifted by mechanical device, unless this is done in the presence and under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon who is arranging for it to be transported with all practicable speed to a place for veterinary treatment.

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