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Protection of calves intended for slaughter

This Directive lays down minimum standards for the protection of confined calves intended for human consumption. This Directive repeals Directive 91/629 and consolidates the standards already in force in a single text.


Council Directive 2008/119/EC of 18 December 2008 laying down minimum standards for the protection of calves.


This Directive lays down minimum standards for the protection of calves * placed in units in which they are raised for slaughter. These standards, which have been compulsory since 1 January 2007, do not apply to calves kept with the cow for suckling, or to holdings with fewer than six calves.

This Directive does not cover the transport of calves, which is governed by Regulation (EC) No 1/2005.

Group or individual pens

Pens must be constructed in such a way as to allow each calf to lie down, rest, stand up and groom itself without difficulty.

From the age of eight weeks, individual pens are prohibited except in the case of illness. This measure is justified by the gregarious nature of bovine animals.

Before the age of eight weeks, individual pens are permitted. They are to be composed of perforated walls which allow the calves to have visual and tactile contact. Solid walls may be used only to isolate sick animals from the rest of the herd.

Group pens must comply with the following standards relating to space (see table below).

Weight of animal in kgArea in m2

‹ 150


‹ 220


› 220


Calves must not be tethered (except possibly during the feeding of milk for a period of not more than one hour) or muzzled.

Housing, pens, equipment and utensils must be cleaned and disinfected.

Floors must be smooth but not slippery, so as to prevent injury to the calves. The lying area must be comfortable, clean and adequately drained. Bedding is compulsory for calves less than two weeks old.


Each calf must receive bovine colostrum as soon as possible after it is born (within the first six hours of life).

Any calf which is ill or injured must be treated without delay. Veterinary advice must be obtained as soon as possible for any calf which is not responding to the stock-keeper’s care.


Calves are to be fed at least twice a day. Each calf must have access to food at the same time as the others in the group.

Their food must contain sufficient iron to ensure an average blood haemoglobin level of at least 4.5 mmol/litre, and a minimum daily ration of fibrous food must be provided for each calf over two weeks old.

Diet must be adapted to the age and weight of the animal. It must also be adapted to its behaviour and physiological needs.

Calves over two weeks of age should have access to fresh water.

Monitoring of animals

Housed calves must be inspected at least twice daily and mechanical equipment at least once daily. Where an artificial ventilation system is used, provision must be made for an alarm system (tested regularly) and a ventilation back-up system.

Light levels

Calves should be kept in conditions with natural or artificial lighting (equivalent to the period of natural light between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.).


Member States must carry out inspections every year on a statistically representative sample.

The Commission may send veterinary experts to carry out on-the-spot checks with the assistance of the national inspectors.


To import animals from third countries, a certificate is required stating that they have received treatment equivalent to that granted to animals of Community origin.

Specific provisions

Member States may, within their territories, apply stricter provisions than those laid down in this Directive. In this case, they must inform the Commission in advance of any such measures.


This Directive repeals Directive 91/629/EEC.

Key terms of the Act
  • Calf: a bovine animal up to six months old.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 2008/119/EC



OJ L 10 of 15.1.2009

Last updated: 09.07.2009
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