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Buying or selling of livestock

Check the health status of the livestock you buy or sell; key points for you to be aware of

This guidance is for England

If you are buying livestock it is in your interest to ensure that you are purchasing what you want, and know exactly what it is.

It is important that you know the health status of your own herd / flock and that of any animals being purchased. If at all in doubt you should take advice from your veterinary surgeon. In most cases, incoming stock should be isolated / quarantined in accordance with veterinary advice.

If you are selling livestock, it is your responsibility to ensure that any form of representation (including advertising) that is made in connection with the livestock in order to promote the supply or transfer of the livestock is true.

In the guide

Buying livestock

If you are buying livestock it is in your interest to satisfy yourself about such matters as the identity, breed, sex, age, pedigree, farm assured status and health status before agreeing to purchase.

If in doubt about any information concerning the animal you must ask the seller.

Do not make assumptions and ensure you ask enough questions to know exactly what you are getting. You must be told the truth, but if you don't ask you may not find out until it is too late.

Buyer beware

It is important that you know the health status of your own herd/flock and that of any animals being purchased. If at all in doubt, you should take advice from your veterinary surgeon.

In most cases, incoming stock should be isolated/quarantined in accordance with veterinary advice.

Criminal law and the health status of traded production animals

DISEASED ANIMALS

Diseased animals must be fit to be transported and, if showing any signs of abnormality, accompanied to the slaughterhouse by a food chain information (FCI) declaration completed by the owner or person in charge of the animal. (Food Safety and Hygiene (England)  Regulations 2013 - EU Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs - annex 1, part A I 1 (b), II 3 (a), 4 (j), III 7, 8 (b) and (c)).

SALE BY AUCTION THROUGH A MARKET

A diseased animal cannot be sold through a market. It is an offence for a person (including the owner or person in charge of the animals, and the auctioneer and his or her company) to permit an unfit animal to be exposed for sale in a market. 'Unfit' includes infirm, diseased, ill, injured or fatigued animals. (Welfare of Animals at Markets Order 1990 - article 5 (1)).

SALE BY PRIVATE TREATY

Misdescribing animals is an offence under the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008. Regulation 6 says advertising is misleading that: 'in any way, including its presentation, deceives or is likely to deceive the trader to whom it is addressed or whom it reaches; and by reason of its deceptive nature, is likely to affect their economic behaviour; or for those reasons, injures or is likely to injure a competitor'.

A similar offence exists under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 for misdescribing animals where the purchaser is not a business. Regulation 3 prohibits unfair commercial practices.

Civil law and the health status of traded production animals

When you buy goods from a trader (for example, a farmer), a contract is entered into. The law gives you certain implied (in other words, automatic) statutory rights under this contract.

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 says that goods should be:

  • of satisfactory quality. Goods must meet the standards that any reasonable person would expect, taking into account the description, price and all other relevant information. Satisfactory quality includes the goods' appearance and finish, safety and durability and freedom from defects (including minor faults)
  • fit for purpose. Goods of this type are generally sold for a particular purpose. They must also be fit for any specific or particular purpose the buyer makes known to the seller at the time of the agreement
  • as described. Goods should correspond with any description applied to them. However, when you buy goods from a private individual you do not have the same rights as when buying from a trader. The legal principle of caveat emptor ('buyer beware') operates. You have no rights to expect that goods be of satisfactory quality or fit for their purpose, but there is a requirement that they should be 'as described' and that the seller has the legal right to sell them (is the owner, for example). You should check goods thoroughly before you buy them

If any of the above is not met then there is a breach of contract and redress is possible. Consequential loss can also apply.

REMEDY FOR MISREPRESENTATION

Misrepresentation may be actionable where there is a materially false statement of fact made by one party (or his agent) that is intended to, and does, induce the other party to enter the contract. A statement may be made in writing, orally or even by conduct (making the goods tell a lie about themselves). A mere statement of opinion, provided it is genuinely held, is not a statement of fact. However, a statement of opinion by someone in a position to know the facts will be regarded as a statement of fact.

Advertising puff is not a statement of fact. The distinction between a trader's puff and a statement having legal significance is a fine one.

There are two remedies for misrepresentation:

  • rescission. This means the contract is treated as though it had never existed. The other party can rescind (cancel) the contract and both parties must be put back in the position they were in before the contract was entered into
  • damages. Damages (that is, financial compensation) may be claimed for any direct expenses that may have been incurred. They may be claimed on their own or in addition to rescission

BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS TRANSACTIONS

If you are buying livestock for commercial purposes then it is likely that you will be entering into a business-to-business transaction.

You still have rights under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 as stated above. However, in business to business transactions the seller can put restrictions into the terms and conditions of the contract but these would only apply if they were fair under the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977.

The remedies available for misrepresentation also apply to business-to-business transactions.

Selling livestock

If you are selling livestock it is your responsibility to ensure that any form of representation (including advertising) made in connection with the livestock, in order to promote the supply or transfer of the livestock, is true.

Representation includes such things as identity of the animal, its ear tags, passport, pedigree certificate, milk records, breeding records, health status, history, farm assurance status, and any description you apply to the animals. Thus any information given by you or in any document - for example, sale entry form or FCI declaration - must be true.

See also 'Business-to-business marketing' and 'Accurately describing goods & services'.

What you say must be true - it is a criminal offence to mislead.

Key legislation

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law. Any legislation referred to, while still current, may have been amended from the form in which it was originally enacted. Please contact us for further information.

Last reviewed/updated: February 2014

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London Boroughs of Brent and Harrow, Trading Standards Service,
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