Licensing of slaughter men

The Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996 (WASK), as amended, require anyone carrying out certain operations to have a provisional or a registered licence.

Eligibility criteria

A provisional or a registered licence is required for anyone carrying out the following activities:

  • the restraint of an animal for the purposes of stunning, slaughtering or killing
  • the stunning, slaughter or killing of animals
  • the pithing of stunned animals
  • the assessment of effective stunning or killing
  • the shackling or hoisting of stunned animals
  • the bleeding of animals which are not dead

Trainee Slaughtermen must be 18 years of age or older to hold the required provisional licence.


A licence is not required for the following operations:

  • emergency slaughter or killing, where the animal must be killed immediately
  • slaughter or killing by the owner of an animal for his private consumption (when slaughter takes place elsewhere than in a slaughterhouse or knacker's yard)
  • slaughter or killing for a non-commercial purpose ("commercial" is defined in the Regulations)
  • killing by using a free bullet in the field
  • neck dislocation or decapitation of poultry on agricultural premises where the birds were reared
  • operation of automatic equipment (where the operator does not carry out any task which would otherwise require a licence)
  • shackling birds before stunning
  • slaughter or killing under the direction of a veterinary surgeon

To kill animals for the purposes of disease control, or to kill farmed fox or mink, or to kill surplus chicks or embryos in hatchery waste: however, these operations must be carried out in accordance with the specific requirements of the WASK.

Regulation summary

A summary of the regulation relating to these approvals can be accessed at

Application evaluation process

Provisional licence

When DARD receives written recommendation from an authorised veterinary surgeon, a provisional licence will be issued within 5 working days of receipt, provided the applicant is:

  • deemed to be a fit and proper person to hold a provisional licence
  • is not below the age of 18.
  • the applicant must also give written details if they have had a licence refused, revoked, suspended or been convicted of an offence listed below.

Provisional Licence holders must work only in the presence, and under the direction of, the holder of a full licence covering the same species, operations and equipment or a veterinary surgeon

Certificate of competence

A certificate of competence will be granted by an authorised veterinary surgeon when it is considered that the applicant is:

  • competent to carry out all the operations applied for, from the list at above, without causing avoidable pain, excitement or suffering to any animal
  • has sufficient knowledge of the provisions of all the relevant legislation and of any relevant current codes of practice
  • the applicant is considered a fit and proper person to hold a certificate
  • the applicant is not below the age of 18.

Registered licence

When DARD receives a certificate of competence for registration, together with the application form and photographs, it will grant and issue a registered licence within 5 working days of receipt of documentation.

Will tacit consent apply?

No. It is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from DARD within a reasonable period, please contact it. You can do this by using the contact details below.

Apply online

To apply for a licence click on the link to and then enter your post code. You will need to register on the website before you can do this.

Alternatively applications can be downloaded here

Failed application redress

A certificate of competence, provisional licence or registered licence can be refused if the applicant has failed to comply with:

  • any condition of any licence previously granted to him
  • any condition of any licence to slaughter animals previously granted to him by a district council under the Slaughter of Animals Acts (Northern Ireland) 1932 to 1956
  • has been convicted of an offence under:
  • the WASK Regulations
  • the Slaughter of Animals Acts (Northern Ireland) 1932 to 1956
  • the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 1972
  • the Diseases of Animals (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 being contravention of any order regulating the transport of animals
  • any other provision concerning the welfare of animals

Any person to whom a notice is given advising that a licence or certificate has been refused can:

  • make written representations to DARD or to the authorised veterinary surgeon
  • have a hearing on the matter undertaken by an independent person appointed by DARD.

The decision will then be reconsidered on the grounds of the information put forward by that person in their representations.

Consumer complaint

If you have complaint about a slaughterman please contact DARD using the details below.

Contact details

Further information can be obtained by contacting DARD at the address below:

Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
Veterinary Public Health Unit
Manor House
BT61 8JB
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