The Animal Welfare Committee (AWC), via the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), has issued advice on methods for killing piglets on farm.

The AWC have recommended that government change the law to make non-penetrative captive bolt devices of sufficient power a legal alternative method for on farm killing of newborn piglets – and, it notes, lambs and kids.

A non-penetrative captive bolt shocks the animal, causing severe damage to the brain without penetration. At the moment they are classified as simple stunning and so require a killing method to follow.

It is currently illegal to use a non-penetrative captive bolt for stunning pigs on farm, other than for emergency killing.

The AWC recommend that as soon as the legal framework is establish for its recommendation then piglets, as well as newborn kids and lambs of specific age and weight, should be culled using non-penetrative captive bolts and not by a non-mechanical percussive blow to the head.

This is an important improvement to the welfare of newborn animals killed on farm the AWC note, and the legislative changes required should be made at the earliest opportunity.

These recommendations were drafted and published by the AWC in July 2021, and published to Defra yesterday (December 1).


The AWC advises Defra and the Scottish and Welsh governments on the welfare of animals.

There are 15 committee members in total:

  • Peter Jinman, chair, past president, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS);
  • Martin Barker, pig farmer;
  • Andy Butterworth, veterinary surgeon;
  • Richard Cooper, veterinary surgeon;
  • Jane Downes, independent veterinary consultant;
  • Troy Gibson, lecturer in Animal Welfare Science, Royal Veterinary College;
  • David Grumett, senior lecturer in Theology and Ethics, University of Edinburgh;
  • Maria Carmen Hubbard, agricultural economist;
  • Richard Jennison, veterinary surgeon;
  • Richard Kempsey, poultry farmer;
  • Dorothy McKeegan, senior lecturer, University of Glasgow;
  • Romain Pizzi, RCVS recognised specialist and lecturer in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine;
  • Pen Rashbass, sheep breeder and conservation grazier;
  • Professor Sarah Wolfensohn, Prof. of Animal Welfare, University of Surrey and veterinary consultant;
  • James Yeates, veterinary surgeon.