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Protection of animals at the time of killing

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Protection of animals at the time of killing


Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing



  • It introduces welfare rules for the killing or slaughter of animals kept for the production of food and products such as fur and leather. It also covers killing of animals on farms in other contexts such as disease control situations.
  • The regulation does not apply to animals killed in the wild, or as part of scientific experiments, hunting, cultural or sporting events and euthanasia practiced by a veterinarian, nor to poultry, rabbits or hares for private domestic consumption.


Animals must be spared any avoidable pain, distress or suffering during their killing. Businesses, such as slaughterhouse operators, must ensure that animals:

  • are provided physical comfort and protection, kept clean, protected from injury and handled and housed taking into account normal behaviour;
  • do not show signs of avoidable pain or fear or abnormal behaviour;
  • do not suffer from prolonged withdrawal of feed or water;
  • are protected from avoidable interaction with other animals that could harm their welfare.

Facilities used for killing must be capable of fulfilling all these conditions at all times of the year.

Restraining and stunning methods

The regulation sets out detailed rules about restraining and stunning animals, including the training of operators and the proper maintenance of equipment. It covers the application of different methods for different animals. In particular, stunned animals must remain unconscious until death, unless they are subject to particular methods prescribed by religious rites, which must take place in a slaughterhouse.

Certificate of competence

Killing and related operations can only be carried out by persons with the level of competence to do so without causing the animals any avoidable pain, distress or suffering. Some operations require individual certificates of competence, for instance:

  • the handling and care of animals before they are restrained;
  • the restraint of animals for the purpose of stunning or killing;
  • the stunning of animals and the assessment of effective stunning;
  • the shackling or hoisting or bleeding of live animals;
  • slaughtering in accordance with religious practices.

The health certificate accompanying meat imported from non-EU countries must certify that the equivalent requirements have been met.


There are detailed rules for the construction, the equipment and operations of slaughterhouses. Procedures must be constantly monitored by slaughterhouse operators, who must also appoint an Animal Welfare Officer to help ensure compliance. The following methods of restraint are among those banned:

  • suspending or hoisting conscious animals;
  • mechanical clamping or tying of the legs or feet;

There are some exceptions where an inverted position is allowed in the case of poultry or in the context of slaughter for religious rites.

Depopulation* and emergency killing

An action plan must be in place to ensure compliance with this regulation, before any depopulation operation begins. In addition, depopulation operations must be reported every year. The report must include, in particular:

  • the reasons for the depopulation;
  • the number and the species of animals killed;
  • the stunning and killing methods used;
  • difficulties encountered and solutions to minimise the suffering of the animals concerned.

Where animals face severe pain or suffering, the keeper of the animals concerned must take all necessary measures to kill the animals as soon as possible.

Non-compliance and penalties

EU countries must ensure that the rules are implemented and that the competent authorities have the power to:

  • change procedures, or slow down or stop production;
  • increase the frequency of checks;
  • suspend or withdraw certificates of competence.

Penalties must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.


It applies from 1 January 2013.


Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union introduced the recognition that animals are sentient beings*.

For more information, see Slaughter and Stunning on the European Commission’s website


* Depopulation: the process of killing animals for public health, animal health, animal welfare or environmental reasons under the supervision of the competent authorities.

* Sentient being: a creature that has the capability of experiencing physical and psychological pain and suffering.


Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing (OJ L 303, 18.11.2009, pp. 1-30)


Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on systems restraining bovine animals by inversion or any unnatural position (COM(2016) 48 final of 8.2.2016)

last update 23.05.2016