Policy paper

2010 to 2015 government policy: animal and plant health

Updated 8 May 2015

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/protecting-animal-health-and-preventing-disease-including-in-trade. Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.


Preventing animal disease is important for animal health and welfare, but animal diseases including those of fish and shellfish, can also be a risk to human health.

Serious disease outbreaks can be expensive. Depending on their severity, previous outbreaks of certain diseases, like Foot and Mouth disease, have cost between £2 million and £3 billion, with knock-on economic effects.

Diseases also have longer-term economic and social effects, for example, on farmers trying to do business, including trading animals and animal products.

Imports and exports of animals and animal products are important for the UK economy. However, they need to be controlled because they can also carry a risk of disease.

Farmers and other animal keepers play a vital part in helping to prevent disease, reporting diseases when they occur and stopping them from spreading.


Defra is responsible for controlling certain animal diseases when they happen, and also helping to advise farmers and other people who keep animals on how to prevent disease. It’s important that diseased animals don’t enter or leave the country, that livestock movements are controlled and traceable, and that disease doesn’t enter the food chain.

Preventing animal diseases

To help prevent animal disease, we’re:

  • enforcing strict rules on identification and recording of livestock and horses, and the reporting of livestock movements - keepers must register the premises where they keep livestock and comply with the rules for their particular species

  • making movement reporting simple and straightforward through new electronic reporting systems for cattle and pigs, and plans for a system for sheep, goats and deer from April 2014

  • making sure that animal by-products are safely handled, used and disposed of

  • controlling and certifying import and export trade in animals and animal products to ensure that they do not introduce disease into the UK or to other countries

  • helping and advising farmers and other people who keep animals on how to reduce the risk of animal disease, and what to do if they see signs of disease

  • enforcing strict rules on travel with pets

  • preventing and controlling disease in fish and shellfish

Controlling animal diseases

We’re responsible for controlling certain diseases when they happen. Different diseases are dealt with in different ways, including:

  • legal requirements to notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency or the Fish Health Inspectorate (as appropriate) if you suspect certain diseases
  • monitoring and testing for disease

  • controls to stop disease being spread if it’s detected, which can include slaughtering animals

EU law requires all member states to have specific controls on certain diseases.

Monitoring disease outbreaks and funding research

We’re funding research on animal diseases, so we can build policies on a good scientific evidence base.

We’re also monitoring major animal disease outbreaks worldwide, to check whether they pose a risk to the UK, and to raise awareness.

Working with professional bodies involved in animal disease

We’re working with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and other bodies to find ways to modernise and bring their working methods in line with other regulated professions.


Much of the work we do in all aspects of animal health is governed by EU law and implemented by national rules. For example, EU law requires member states to run disease control programmes for some diseases (like salmonella in poultry), and monitor trends for others.

In 2002, the EU introduced a regulation to control the use and disposal of animal by-products. This was in response to a number of crises in animal and public health in which animal by-products were implicated, including Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (known as mad cow disease) and Foot and Mouth disease. The regulation was reviewed and updated in 2011.

The EU also introduced specific rules on identifying and registering the various species or animals, which were then set out in national legislation.

Who we’re working with

The Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE) for England makes direct recommendations to Ministers on policy affecting the health and welfare of all kept animals, such as farm animals, horses and pets.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) is the executive agency with responsibility for many areas relating to animal health and diseases, including inspection and surveillance.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for food safety and food hygiene across the UK. They work with local authorities to enforce food safety regulations, including regulations on animal by-products.

UK exports of animals and animal products are facilitated and imports are controlled by our work with the AHVLA, the FSA, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), port health authorities and local authorities.

Defra provides secretariat support for the UK Zoonoses, Animal Diseases and Infections Group (UKZADI), which advises government on important trends that might affect animal or human health.

Defra, the Health and Safety Executive and the Department of Health are jointly responsible for the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens.

The Environment Agency investigates fish mortalities caused by poor environmental conditions, pollution and fish disease in fisheries and the wild. It also carries out other tasks on fish health including health checks, monitoring and surveillance to manage disease risks and ensuring good fishery management.

The Fish Health Inspectorate is responsible for the control of serious diseases in fish and shellfish, including inspection and surveillance

We also work with a number of other committees, including:

Bills and legislation

Disease controls

Legislation to control animal diseases includes the Animal Health Act 1981, as amended, and there are also other national Orders made.

Find details of relevant EU and national legislation for individual notifiable diseases.

Animal pathogens

There are laws and regulations about laboratory containment and import of animal pathogens (anything that can cause disease, such as a virus).

Defra administers these laws, the Importation of Animal Pathogens Order 1980 (as amended) and the Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) (England) 2008.

We provide forms and guidance on animal pathogens.

Animal by-products

The EU Animal By-Products Regulation 1069/2009, and accompanying EU Implementing Regulation 142/2011, set the rules for how animal by-products must be handled, used, transported and disposed of in the UK.

In England the Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (England) Regulations No.2011/881 enforce the requirements of the EU regulations. Similar legislation applies in the rest of the UK.

The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966

The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 regulates veterinary surgeons and also those who carry out minor procedures that are classified as acts of veterinary surgery under Section 19 (4) (e) of the Act.

Appendix 1: trade - imports and exports

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

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:

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:

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:

Appendix 2: animal by-products

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Animal by-products (ABPs) are any part of an animal not intended for human consumption. They can pose a risk to human and animal health.

We limit that risk by making sure ABPs are used and disposed of safely. We’re also encouraging greater recycling and use of ABPs.

Checks on business that handle ABPs

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) is responsible for inspecting, approving and registering businesses that use or dispose of ABPs. The exception is in slaughterhouses and meat cutting plants, where the work is carried out by the Food Standards Agency.

Legislation that controls use and disposal of ABPs in the UK

In the UK, ABP use, disposal, handling, identification etc are controlled by:

The regulations:

  • put restrictions on feeding of ABPs to animals
  • ban intra-species recycling (ie feeding material derived from an animal to another of the same species)
  • prohibit the feeding of catering waste (or swill) to farmed animals
  • ban animals from grazing on land where organic fertilisers or soil improvers derived from ABPs have been applied, unless grazing restrictions have been observed
  • allocate all ABPs to one of three risk categories, which determines how they can be used or disposed of – for example some low-risk materials can be used for pet food, some high-risk materials must be incinerated
  • set down requirements for Food Business establishments to stain certain ABPs (previously covered by the revoked Animal By-Products (Identification) Regulations 1995)

Guidance for dealing with animal by-products (ABPs)

We’ve published guidance for farmers and businesses dealing with animal by-products (ABPs) (including fallen stock).

Encouraging more sustainable use of ABPs

Every year, the EU produces more than 10 million tons of meat from healthy animals that’s not suitable for human consumption. We’re encouraging greater recycling and use of such material, where it is safe to do so.

To do this, we impose the minimum regulations on dealing with ABPs, unless there are public and animal health issues which outweigh the potential benefits.

For example, where the EU regulations allow us to exclude low-risk ABPs from the scope of the regulations, or apply alternative lesser controls, we have done so. Authorisations are available for businesses that want to take advantage of these derogations.

We work closely with industry as we negotiate EU policy to ensure rules on ABPs are proportionate and risk-based.

Modernising and improving the industry

To benefit from progress in science and technology, we review proposals for alternative methods for use and disposal of ABPs and pass them to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for assessment.

Appendix 3: controlling animal disease

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

We control different types of animal diseases in different ways.

Some diseases are classified as ‘notifiable diseases’, because there’s a legal requirement to notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) if you suspect an animal has one of these diseases.

‘Exotic’ diseases are diseases that aren’t normally present in the UK, but can be introduced, for example, by wild birds. Some of these diseases are notifiable.

‘Zoonotic’ diseases are diseases like rabies, which can be passed from animals to humans. Again, some zoonotic diseases are notifiable.

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), which include BSE in cattle, are a group of brain diseases. All TSEs are notifiable.

Controlling notifiable diseases

EU law requires all member states to control certain notifiable diseases.

Contingency planning

As required by EU directives, we have contingency plans which set out what Defra, our agencies and people who keep animals must do if there is an outbreak of an exotic notifiable disease.

We review these contingency plans every year, so we can take into account any lessons learned from incidents of disease, public consultations or the trial exercises we carry out.

The United Kingdom contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases outlines how all the administrations work together in case of an outbreak. The devolved administrations each have their own contingency plans.

Testing our response to outbreaks of disease

We regularly test our contingency plans and related processes and procedures.

In 2010, we ran a national exercise, Exercise Silver Birch, to test our response to a large-scale outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, and published an evaluation report.

In 2013 we ran another large scale exercise testing our response to an outbreak of Classical Swine Fever. An evaluation report for Exercise Walnut was published.

Exotic notifiable disease control strategies

We’ve collaborated with the APHA and other stakeholders to develop disease control strategies for many important notifiable exotic diseases, including:

Other important guidance includes:

Controlling zoonotic diseases

There are over 70 recognised zoonotic diseases, of which some are commonly found in the UK.

Some zoonotic diseases are notifiable and covered in our contingency plans and control strategies. Others are ‘reportable’ diseases, which means that if a laboratory finds evidence of the disease, they must report it to the AHVLA.

The two main reportable zoonotic diseases are Brucella and Salmonella, both of which can affect a number of different animal species.

There are also other zoonotic diseases that don’t have specific legal measures. Their control is dealt with by vets and animal keepers.

Salmonella national control programmes

We’re required by EU law (the EU Zoonoses Regulation No 2160/2003) to check for and control Salmonella through agreed national control programmes. Currently, we have national control programmes for breeding hens, laying hens, broilers and turkeys. The regulation allows for other diseases and other species to be added in the future.

We also publish accompanying guidance and codes of practice for the control of Salmonella.

Defra-approved laboratories

Testing under the Salmonella national control programmes must be carried out in approved laboratories. Sampling kits are provided by approved laboratories or AHVLA.

Reports on zoonotic diseases

There are two sets of annual reports on zoonotic diseases available that can be found on the EFSA website.

Controlling TSEs

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are a group of progressive and deadly brain diseases, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, scrapie in sheep and goats and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) in humans. All TSEs are notifiable.

TSE controls are firmly based on scientific evidence. Protecting human health, where there’s any risk, is the first priority.

We take a range of actions to prevent and control TSEs. These include:

  • controlling what goes into animal feed, which helps prevent animals from getting TSEs
  • specifying the parts of animals that must be removed and disposed of at slaughter, so they can’t enter the animal or human food chain – called specified risk material controls
  • excluding from the food chain all cattle born or reared in the UK before the reinforced feed ban came into force in August 1996
  • testing cattle and sheep for TSEs, and meeting EU requirements to do so
  • investigating, monitoring, slaughtering and other measures if a TSE is found, depending on the disease

Possible changes to TSE rules

The EC is considering various future policy options for changes to the TSE controls, while making sure we maintain a high level of food safety and protection of animal health.

The Commission’s TSE Roadmap 2 outlines possible amendments to EU TSE rules over the period 2010 to 2015. The aim is to continue to review the measures, to ensure that they are proportionate to the risk, while assuring a high level of food safety.

Amendments to EU TSE rules will be supported by scientific advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The Council and European Parliament have endorsed the TSE Roadmap 2. The Commission’s initial priorities were review of BSE testing, the feed ban and scrapie controls.

Appendix 4: preventing and controlling disease in fish and shellfish

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The UK is free of many of the most serious diseases of fish and shellfish, allowing businesses to trade openly with countries outside the EU and protecting a valuable natural resource which includes recreational fishing.

Our aim is to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic animal diseases, helping businesses to reduce their losses from disease, while protecting trade and wild fish and shellfish stocks.

Fish and shellfish farmers have a crucial role to play in the prevention of disease, reporting diseases when they occur and stopping them from spreading.


The focus of our work is on reducing the risk of disease, keeping out new diseases and being prepared to control certain diseases when they occur.

We apply strict controls on the trade of live fish and shellfish to prevent disease entering the country or other countries - controlling and certifying import and export of live fish and shellfish

Surveillance and monitoring of fish and shellfish businesses helps identify disease quickly. Where disease does occur we apply controls such as movement restrictions to prevent further spread. Rapid action to contain disease helps limit the impact on affected businesses.

We provide information to farmers and other people who keep fish and shellfish on how to reduce the risk of disease, and what to do if they see signs of disease

We regularly test and update our plans and procedures for dealing with diseases, collaborating with industry and other government agencies to ensure we are ready for emergency situations.

New diseases can have devastating effects. Monitoring of disease outbreaks reported around the world ensures we are aware of potential threats and allows us to inform industry.

We are developing an Aquatic Animal Health Strategy which will show all the actions we take to prevent and control disease, our priorities over the coming years and the steps we are taking to meet our goals.


The main EU regulation on fish and shellfish disease is Directive 2006/88/EC which deals with health problems affecting trade inside the EU in aquaculture animals and their products.

Our own legislation which contains the rules about aquaculture businesses and controlling disease outbreaks are the Aquatic Animal Health (England and Wales) Regulations 2009

Working with others

The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) provides Defra with scientific and veterinary advice on diseases in fish and shellfish.

Cefas’ Fish Health Inspectorate is responsible for the control of serious diseases in fish and shellfish, including inspection and surveillance.

The Fish Health Inspectorate works closely with the Environment Agency (EA) in the investigation of mortality events in wild fish populations.


We’re funding research on fish and shellfish diseases, so we can build policies on a good scientific evidence base – search the Science and Research Projects database using key words such as fish or shellfish.

Appendix 5: working with the veterinary and other professions

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Defra works with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the farriery profession and associated industries, as part of our wider work to prevent animal disease.

We aim to help modernise the veterinary and associated professions, and bring their work in line with best practice in other professions. The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (VSA) is the legislation that regulates veterinary surgeons in the UK.

Breaches of standards in the veterinary profession

We introduced new legislation to update the way the RCVS deals with breaches of standards and make the process more effective. The legislation came into force on 6 April 2013.

Better recognition for veterinary nurses

The RCVS and veterinary nurses are considering a regulatory framework that would allow:

  • protecting the title of ‘veterinary nurse’
  • formal regulation of the profession

RCVS has set up a Veterinary Nurses Legislation Working Party. They want to replace the current voluntary register of veterinary nurses with a statutory register.

This would allow the RCVS to better regulate the profession and strike off veterinary nurses found guilty of professional misconduct.

The Review of Minor Procedures Regime Project

There’s a range of minor animal health procedures which don’t have to be carried out by vets.

The legal basis for this is Section 19(4) (e) of the VSA, which allows non-veterinarians to carry out minor veterinary procedures in the UK through ministerial orders (known as ‘exemption orders’.)

We’re reviewing how these should be controlled in the future to make sure that the people carrying out these procedures are properly trained and regulated.

We’re also reviewing ways to enforce standards through:

  • regulating training courses
  • changing processes for prosecuting people who break the law while carrying out these procedures

So far the project has gathered evidence across a wide range of areas, including animal health and welfare, animal breeding and training and education. This has helped us to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the current system.

Industry has produced reports on the following activities:

  • Artificial breeding procedures in cattle and horses
  • Equine dental care
  • Musculoskeletal therapies (focussing on physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy and hydrotherapy)
  • Equine hoof trimming

We have now reached the end of stage 1, during Spring 2015 we will release the report findings.

We do not have all the solutions. We encourage animal owners, their veterinary advisers, providers of services and the wider general public to look out for our future updates.

Meanwhile we would welcome any views and ideas that you may have on this project and let us know how you would like to be updated by emailing us at rmpr.project@defra.gsi.gov.uk

Updating the Farriers Registration (Act) 1975

The Farriers Registration Council (FRC) regulates the farriery profession in Great Britain.

Under the Farriers (Registration) Act 1975, the FRC has statutory responsibilities to:

  • maintain a register of farriers
  • regulate farriery training
  • investigate and discipline breaches of standards

A farrier is a skilled person with a sound knowledge of both theory and practice of shoeing all types of equine feet.

The act requires that farriers have to meet the mandatory level of qualification to be entered on the register held by FRC. It’s a criminal offence for anyone other than an individual entered onto the register to carry out farriery.

However, certain elements of the act now need to be reviewed and updated, to help bring the profession in line with others. We consulted on a series of proposed options for reform of the governance, structure and operation of the Farriers Registration Council.