Country Smallholding

The law

- Northern Ireland · Island of Ireland · European Union

As with ev­ery­thing, there are rules and reg­u­la­tions that you need to abide to (or bend). Most of th­ese – quite rightly – re­late to the wel­fare of the an­i­mal at the time of slaugh­ter. There­fore you must not cause (or per­mit to be caused) any avoid­able ex­cite­ment, pain or suf­fer­ing. Nei­ther must you slaugh­ter (or per­mit to be slaugh­tered) any an­i­mal by a re­li­gious method, and you must en­sure that all an­i­mals are stunned be­fore slaugh­ter. So far, so good!

Now we move into the more dif­fi­cult ar­eas…

You can­not ask any­one else (even a li­censed slaugh­ter­man) to kill and cut up an an­i­mal for you on your premises, even if it is only for home consumptio­n. You must do the job your­self. In North­ern Ire­land the law is a lit­tle more flex­i­ble, in that it states that it may be per­mis­si­ble to make use of an itin­er­ant slaugh­ter­man, pro­vided he only kills the an­i­mal and does not process it in any way. Once the an­i­mal is dead and dressed, there are lim­i­ta­tions as to what you can do with it. Ex­cept in cer­tain cases poul­try and rab­bits, you can­not sell, barter, swap or give away any part of any home killed an­i­mal. Nei­ther can you feed it to your guests. Home slaugh­ter is de­fined as be­ing: ‘ The slaugh­ter of a live­stock an­i­mal by its owner on their property for their own per­sonal consumptio­n or that of mem­bers of their im­me­di­ate fam­ily liv­ing there.’

If the law would be con­tent to stick to that sim­ple def­i­ni­tion then things wouldn’t be too bad. But it’s not. Cat­tle, sheep and goats are also cov­ered by the EU Trans­mis­si­ble Spongi­form En­cephalopat­hies ( TSE) Reg­u­la­tions, which re­quire the re­moval of cer­tain Spec­i­fied Risk Ma­te­ri­als (SRM) from the car­cass. Th­ese need to be stained blue and dis­posed of in ac­cor­dance with the leg­is­la­tion. Un­less this is car­ried out, the only per­son who would be able to con­sume any of the meat would be the per­son who owned and killed the an­i­mal. Even close fam­ily mem­bers would be ex­cluded from par­tak­ing of the feast.

Pigs are ex­empt from TSE reg­u­la­tions, so, of the larger species of farmed an­i­mal, th­ese are in fact the eas­i­est an­i­mals to deal with in ac­cor­dance with the law.

Hav­ing said all that, I know plenty of smallholdi­ng folk who reg­u­larly slaugh­ter their own sheep and goats (and oc­ca­sion­ally cat­tle) for home consumptio­n, and none of them take a blind bit of no­tice of the TSE reg­u­la­tions. Nei­ther are they shy about shar­ing their won­der­ful home-pro­duced food with their guests. What you de­cide to do is up to you – just don’t blame me if you get into trou­ble.

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