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General principles relating to the killing for disease control

General principles regarding the welfare of livestock killed for disease control purposes have been developed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The principles should also apply when animals need to be killed for other purposes, such as after natural disasters. These general principles are:

  • Each case should be considered independently because the circumstances surrounding the cull will differ between farms, incidents and species affected. The procedures should be individually tailored to meet the needs of the affected animals and those nearby, the practicalities of the killing method, financial restrictions, operator safety, resources available, biosecurity and environmental impact.
  • With regard to biosecurity, where there is an outbreak of infectious disease, infected animals should be killed first. Secondly, animals which are known to have been in contact with infected animals, and finally the remaining animals on the premises.  
  • In accordance with the UK DEFRA guidelines produced in 2003, if more than one species are held on the premises they should be killed in the following order:

- Pigs

- Cattle

- Goats

- Sheep

- Poultry

- Farmed deer

However, it is worth noting there may be situations in which a different kill order may be more appropriate. 

  • To prevent unnecessary distress, young animals should be killed before older animals. It is particularly important for young un-weaned animals to be killed immediately following separation from their dams. All people involved in the humane killing of animals in this situation must have the relevant training and skills in order for them to be competent in their role. Competence may be gained through formal training and/or practical experience.
  • Regardless of the species present on-farm, killing should be carried out as quickly and humanely as possible. Where feasible, normal husbandry should be maintained until the animals are killed.
  • Handling and movement of animals, outside of the usual routine, should be minimised. If animals have to be relocated it should be performed in accordance with the recommendations described later in this guide.
  • Restraint of animals should only be performed when necessary as an aid to efficient and humane killing. Restraint should be performed in accordance with requirements regarding animal welfare and operator safety. Killing should follow with minimal delay.
  • When animals are killed, the methods used should result in immediate death or immediate loss of consciousness lasting until death.  When loss of consciousness is not immediate, the induction of unconsciousness should be non-aversive. Where this is not possible we should aim for the least aversive means possible. It should not cause avoidable anxiety, pain, distress or suffering.
  • Continuous monitoring of the procedures should be performed by the competent authorities to ensure high standards are maintained regarding animal welfare, operator safety and biosecurity.
  • When the planned cull has been completed, a report should be written describing the practices adopted and their impact on animal welfare, operator safety and biosecurity. In the European Union there are specific requirements for the reporting of infectious animal diseases. Details of the Animal Disease Notification System (ADNS) can be found here

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