Defra commits to allowing remote veterinary inspections during AI outbreaks

A photo of a road sign indicating that an Avian Influenza Surveillance Zone

Defra has confirmed that following industry consultation, legislation is set to be changed to allow veterinary inspections for AI (Avian Influenza) movement licences to take place remotely in England, using video technology instead of mandatory in-person pre-movement inspections.


According to current legislation, movements of poultry that originate or end in an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone or a Surveillance Zone must be appropriately licensed by the APHA before they can take place. For specific licences such as the movement of birds to slaughter, a veterinary inspection to determine the health status of the birds is a pre-requisite for issuing the licence.

This can place a considerable resource burden on local veterinary resource, particularly in locations where there have been a high number of cases in poultry. Additionally, some poultry keepers have raised biosecurity concerns about inviting additional personnel onto their poultry site.

During the 2022/23 AI outbreak, the APHA successfully trialled remote veterinary inspections for movement licensing as a way to reduce pressure on private veterinary resources. Poultry keepers could either video or live-stream an inspection with a suitable qualified veterinary inspector. Following up from the last AI season, Defra sought views on proposals to allow remote inspections on a permanent basis.

19 December 2023

Defra to implement remote veterinary inspections during AI outbreaks

Following strong support from the NFU and other respondents, Defra has confirmed its intention to change legislation in order to permit the use of remote veterinary inspections during AI outbreaks to reduce pressure on local veterinary resources.

The NFU awaits further information on expected timescales for the necessary changes to legislation. 

31 October 2023

NFU responds in support of Defra proposals

Following feedback from members and discussion with the NFU Poultry Board, the NFU responded in support of the proposed change to allow remote veterinary inspections as an alternative to in person inspections to help reduce pressure on local veterinary resources and protect site biosecurity.

In the response, the need for an approach that encompasses the whole of Great Britain was emphasised, and clarification was sought on how any changes in England would impact poultry or poultry products moving between England and Wales or Scotland.

NFU members can sign in and read the full consultation response at: NFU response - remote veterinary inspections consultation

31 October 2023

Consultation closed

The deadline to submit a response to this consultation is now closed.

10 October 2023

Consultation opens

Defra has opened its consultation on proposals to permit the use of remote veterinary inspections in avian disease control zones in England. 

The three key options being considered by Defra are: 

  • Baseline: Maintain the current legislation - i.e. remote inspections will not be permitted and pre movement inspections will continue in person
  • Option 1: Amend the legislation to allow remote inspections for movement of birds to slaughter only
  • Option 2: Amend the legislation to allow remote pre-movement inspections for licensed movements including birds to slaughter, brood and move and movement of point of lay pullets.

Defra has expressed that option 2 is their preferred option from those outlined above. 

The NFU sought views from poultry keepers in England via an online form until 22 October 2023. Members could also respond directly to Defra until 31 October 2023.

More information on the consultation can be found at: GOV.UK | Consultation on remote veterinary inspections

This page was first published on 10 October 2023. It was updated on 19 December 2023.

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  • 3 October 2023: Defra has opened its consultation on proposals to allow remote veterinary inspections in England.

  • 31 October 2023: The NFU has submitted a response in support of Defra's proposals.
  • 19 December 2023: Defra confirms intentions to allow remote veterinary inspections during AI outbreaks in England.