Background information on the Soil Association’s guidelines for animals at slaughter

Posted on the 10th December 2009

The Soil Association’s (SA) Organic Standard for Processors sets out its guidelines for the killing and processing animals who have been reared under organic systems. In the introduction, the guiding principle for Organic Standard is clearly stated: ‘To treat livestock ethically, meeting their physiological and behavioural needs.’ (1.2)

Animal welfare and staff training

The SA’s Guidelines further state that abattoirs ‘must have a training programme that includes meat hygiene, organic integrity and animal welfare’ (42.3.1) and that staff ‘are competent, well trained and caring’. (42.5.1) On animal welfare, the SA declares: ‘The health and welfare of animals is fundamental to managing organic livestock’ and that abattoir workers must ‘avoid cruelty; satisfy the needs of animals by handling, housing and transporting them with proper care and attention; and always look after animals’ physical and behavioural needs, health and well-being’. (10.2.1)

  • Animal Aid’s film shows pigs being coerced to move with chains, tongs, kicks and blows, and sheep being picked up and/or thrown by their fleeces.

Handling of animals

In section 42.7.5, slaughterhouse workers are advised that they ‘must not use undue force or electric goads to move animals’.

  • Animal Aid’s film shows staff using undue force to goad the animals into position.


The SA’s Guidelines – as well as the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 – stipulates that, in order to stun animals effectively using Electronarcosis (dry electrodes), the operator must ‘place electrodes to span the brain’. (42.9.3)

  • In Animal Aid’s footage, an abattoir worker can be seen using the electrical stunner on the chest of several sheep – some of whom have already been shackled.

Dressing carcasses

The SA’s guidelines state that abattoir workers ‘must not do any dressing or electrical tenderisation until the following times after the animal is fully bled: Sheep and pigs 20 seconds’. (42.9.17)

  • Animal Aid’s footage shows abattoir workers dislocating the necks and removing the heads of sheep (which constitutes ‘dressing’ the carcass) before the 20-second time period has elapsed.
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