Trade: imports and exports
Exports and trade in animals and animal products are important to the UK economy. We’re doing a lot of work to make the farming, food and drink industry more competitive. Helping businesses to export animals and animal products is a priority.
However, greater volume of trade can increase the risk of spreading disease to the UK and other countries.
We need to facilitate trade and export, while protecting animal health. We’re doing this by:
- using EU and national legislation to set strict controls on imports
- adhering to international veterinary standards and processes
- negotiating with non-EU countries so that the UK can export to them
- providing guidance and information to businesses and the agencies who enforce the laws and enable exports
- implementing the action plan to increase exports in the UK farming, food and drink sector
Controls and legislation are intended to:
- protect animal and human health
- make sure UK exports meet high standards, to keep industry competitive
Trade between EU member states
Trade in animals and animal products is largely dictated by EU legislation, which we negotiate. This sets the strict control requirements exporters and importers need to meet.
If you’re trading in these commodities in the EU, see:
- guide to using TRACES – the online system that makes it easier for traders to provide health certification and track consignments of animals and animal products
- guidance on trade or movement within EU member states
Controls on imports from non-EU countries
The EU sets high standards on imports of animals and animal products.
Exporters wanting to move live animals, animal products and genetic material to an EU member state will generally need certification. This gives guarantees about the products, including that have been tested for disease. All consignments are checked at official border inspection posts.
Further information is available:
- Guidance on border inspection posts
- Detailed guidance for importers on import conditions
- Guidance for enforcement agencies
Controls on exports to non-EU countries
Controls vary from country to country, and are set by the importing country. They are informed by standards set by the World Organisation of Animal Health and the World Trade Organisation.
For most countries, all consignments require an export health certificate, which is proof that the conditions set by the importing country have been met.
We negotiate export health certificates, with support from industry. These are often subject to complex government negotiation.
Exporters have a responsibility to meet all the requirements before they export, including all relevant certification. These can be complex, and advice and guidance is available to help. Exporters seeking advice should first contact the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AVHLA),, which:
- provides advice to exporters
- issues existing export health certificates
- works with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to develop new certificates
The Food Standards Agency also has information about commercially exporting food and feed.
The Trade in Animals and Related Products Regulations 2011 (SI 2011 No 1197) which provides Enforcement Authorities with the means of enforcing EU legislation which provides for imports from third countries and intra-Union trade in animals and animal products.
The Bovine Semen Regulations 2007 lays down the rules for the collection, storage and use of bovine semen for domestic and intra-union trade.
The Bovine Embryo (Collection, Production and Transfer) England Regulations 1995 lays down the rules for the collection, production, storage and use of bovine embryos for domestic and intra-union trade.
The Artificial Insemination of Pigs (England and Wales) Regulations 1964 lay down the rules for the collection, storage and use of pig semen for domestic trade.
The bovine semen and the artificial insemination of pigs regulations are currently under review.
We’re working with:
- the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA)
- the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)
- the Food Standards Agency (FSA)
- local and Port Health authorities