DEFRA has opened a consultation looking for views on permitting remote veterinary inspections in avian disease control zones in England.

Legislation requires a physical veterinary inspection before the movement of poultry or poultry products from premises in avian influenza disease control zones.

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However, between November 2022 and April 2023, remote veterinary inspections were temporarily allowed, primarily to alleviate pressure on private veterinary resources acting as official vets.

Inspections ahead of bird movements typically include:

  • A clinical inspection of the birds.
  • A review of records.
  • Consideration of other disease risks.

These disease risks may include the condition of the buildings, the procedures and practices in place and any recent movements on or off the premises.

It can also include the taking and testing of diagnostic samples.

Given the scale of outbreaks last winter, the rules were temporarily changed, with a pilot of remote inspections using video introduced initially in East Anglia, the region hardest hit in the months leading to Christmas 2022. 

Defra’s consultation proposes the following:

Baseline – Do not change the current legislation for movement licence inspections.

• Option 1 – Amend the Order to permit remote inspections prior to movement of birds to slaughter only.

• Option 2 – (preferred option) Amend the Order to permit remote inspections in support of licensed movements under the Order.

Defra said any changes allowing remote inspections would be under specific circumstances and “with the appropriate safeguards in place to mitigate the risk of disease spread”.

For more information or to complete the consultation, which closes on 31 October, visit Defra’s website.