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Protection of calves intended for slaughter

Protection of calves intended for slaughter



Directive 2008/119/EC — minimum standards for the protection of calves


It lays down minimum standards for the protection of confined calves intended for human consumption.


  • This directive lays down minimum standards for the protection of calves (i.e. bovine animals of up to 6 months old) placed in units in which they are raised for slaughter. These standards, which have been compulsory since 1 January 2007, do not apply to calves kept with the cow for suckling, or to holdings with fewer than 6 calves.
  • The directive does not cover the transport of calves, which is governed by Regulation (EC) No 1/2005.

Group or individual pens

  • Pens must be constructed in such a way as to allow each calf to lie down, rest, stand up and groom itself without difficulty.
  • From the age of 8 weeks, individual pens are prohibited except in the case of illness. This measure is justified by the gregarious nature of bovine animals.
  • Before the age of 8 weeks, individual pens are permitted. They are to be composed of perforated walls which allow the calves to have visual and tactile contact. Solid walls may be used only to isolate sick animals from the rest of the herd.
  • Group pens must comply with the following standards relating to space (see table below).

Weight of animal in kg

Area in m2

‹ 150


‹ 220


› 220


  • Calves must not be tethered (except possibly during the feeding of milk for a period of not more than one hour) or muzzled.
  • Housing, pens, equipment and utensils must be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Floors must be smooth but not slippery, so as to prevent injury to the calves. The lying area must be comfortable, clean and adequately drained. Bedding is compulsory for calves less than 2 weeks old.


  • Each calf must receive bovine colostrum as soon as possible after it is born (within the first 6 hours of life).
  • Any calf which is ill or injured must be treated without delay. Veterinary advice must be obtained as soon as possible for any calf which is not responding to the stock-keeper’s care.


  • Calves are to be fed at least twice a day. Each calf must have access to food at the same time as the others in the group.
  • Their food must contain sufficient iron to ensure an average blood haemoglobin level of at least 4.5 mmol/litre, and a minimum daily ration of fibrous food must be provided for each calf over 2 weeks old.
  • Diet must be adapted to the age and weight of the animal. It must also be adapted to its behaviour and physiological needs.
  • Calves over 2 weeks of age should have access to fresh water.

Monitoring of animals

Housed calves must be inspected at least twice daily and mechanical equipment at least once daily. Where an artificial ventilation system is used, an alarm system (tested regularly) and a ventilation back-up system must be installed.

Light levels

Calves should be kept in conditions with natural or artificial lighting (equivalent to the period of natural light between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.).


  • EU countries must carry out inspections every year on a statistically representative sample.
  • The European Commission may send veterinary experts to carry out on-the-spot checks with the assistance of the national inspectors.


To import animals from non-EU countries, a certificate is required stating that they have received treatment equivalent to that granted to animals of EU origin.

Specific rules

EU countries may, within their territories, apply stricter rules than those laid down in this directive. In this case, they must inform the Commission in advance of these measures.

Official controls regulation

Regulation (EU) 2017/625, the EU’s new legislation on the official controls of human food and animal feed, amends certain minor technical details of the directive. These changes will apply from 14 December 2019.


It has applied since 4 February 2009. The directive codifies and repeals previous legislation (Directive 91/629/EEC) which had to be incorporated into national law by 1 January 1994.


For more information, see:

  • Calves (European Commission).


Council Directive 2008/119/EC of 18 December 2008 laying down minimum standards for the protection of calves (Codified version) (OJ L 10, 15.1.2009, pp. 7–13)


Regulation (EU) 2017/625 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2017 on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products, amending Regulations (EC) No 999/2001, (EC) No 396/2005, (EC) No 1069/2009, (EC) No 1107/2009, (EU) No 1151/2012, (EU) No 652/2014, (EU) 2016/429 and (EU) 2016/2031 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Regulations (EC) No 1/2005 and (EC) No 1099/2009 and Council Directives 98/58/EC, 1999/74/EC, 2007/43/EC, 2008/119/EC and 2008/120/EC, and repealing Regulations (EC) No 854/2004 and (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Directives 89/608/EEC, 89/662/EEC, 90/425/EEC, 91/496/EEC, 96/23/EC, 96/93/EC and 97/78/EC and Council Decision 92/438/EEC (Official Controls Regulation) (OJ L 95, 7.4.2017, pp. 1–142)

See consolidated version.

Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations and amending Directives 64/432/EEC and 93/119/EC and Regulation (EC) No 1255/97 (OJ L 3, 5.1.2005, pp. 1–44)

last update 27.09.2017