Livestock mortalities represent a major waste stream within agriculture. Many different methods are used throughout the world to dispose of these mortalities; however within the European Union (EU) disposal options are limited by stringent legislation. The legal disposal options currently available to EU farmers (primarily rendering and incineration) are frequently negatively perceived on both practical and economic grounds. In this review, we assess the potential environment impacts and biosecurity risks associated with each of the main options used for disposal of livestock mortalities in the world and critically evaluate the justification for current EU regulations. Overall, we conclude that while current legislation intends to minimise the potential for on-farm pollution and the spread of infectious diseases (e.g. transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, bacterial pathogens), alternative technologies (e.g. bioreduction, anaerobic digestion) may provide a more cost-effective, practical and biosecure mechanism for carcass disposal as well as having a lower environmental footprint. Further social, environmental and economic research is therefore warranted to assess the holistic benefits of alternative approaches for carcass disposal in Europe, with an aim to provide policy-makers with robust knowledge to make informed decisions on future legislation.