Protect the welfare of animals during pithing operations

Business Sectors (Suites): Meat and Poultry Processing
Developed by: Improve
Approved on: 01 Jan 2019


This standard is about the skills and knowledge needed for you to protect stunned animals during pithing operations in food manufacture and/or supply operations. Operating and understanding pithing operations is important to maintaining the safe, hygienic production of meat or poultry, including the maintenance of animal welfare. It is also important to maintaining supply to the meat or poultry production process. You will need to be able to prepare work area, tools and equipment to protect the welfare of animals during pithing operations. You also need to be able to carry out pithing operations and protect animal welfare, including ovine/caprine and porcine species. This standard is for you if you work in food manufacture and/or supply operations and are involved in carrying out pithing operations and protecting the welfare of animals.

Performance criteria

You must be able to:

Prepare pithing operations

  1. prepare to carry out pithing operations in accordance with

    organisational standards

  2. wear and use personal protective equipment in accordance with

    regulatory standards and organisational requirements

  3. check the condition of pithing rods

  4. maintain pithing rods ready for use

  5. check the availability and condition of any restraint equipment


  6. check the availability and operation of back-up stunning/killing


  7. check that pithing area and personnel are available and ready for

    receiving livestock

  8. refer problems outside the limits of your responsibility to the

    relevant people

    Control pithing operations

  9. assess the effectiveness of stunning and take action where

    stunning has been ineffective

  10. check restraint and position of livestock is correct for pithing

  11. select and use rods to pith livestock

  12. operate in ways which minimise avoidable pain, suffering and


  13. insert pithing rod and ensure the destruction of the brain function

  14. take action to deal with livestock that are not pithed effectively

  15. address problems within the limits of your responsibility

Knowledge and Understanding

You need to know and understand:

  1. why it is important to follow organisational standard operating

    procedures and animal welfare regulations during pithing


    1. the behavioural characteristics of livestock in pithing operations

    2. why it is important to minimise avoidable pain, suffering and


    1. the expected times to death following effective pithing

    2. how to recognise the signs of effective pithing, ineffective pithing,


    1. why the brain should be destroyed to ensure that

    unconsciousness is irreversible and what should be done if this

    does not happen

    1. how to carry out a back-up stunning or killing method and the

    circumstances in which this would be necessary

    1. the importance of following the manufacturer's instructions for

    using pithing rods and any restraint equipment used

    1. why it is important to check the cleanliness of tools and equipment

    2. own responsibilities under animal welfare regulations for the

    pithing of livestock

    1. how to access the organisational standard operating procedures

    2. how to deal with operating problems within the limits of your



Scope Performance

Scope Knowledge





Links To Other NOS

External Links

Version Number


Indicative Review Date

01 Jan 2024





Originating Organisation


Original URN


Relevant Occupations

Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies, Food Production Operatives, Manufacturing Technologies, Process Operatives, Process, Plant and Machine Operatives

SOC Code



Meat; Poultry; Pithing; System; Welfare; Food; Protect; Livestock