Animal health and welfare

Animal health and disease control

Our policy on disease control is that prevention is better than cure. We encourage good animal health and ensure appropriate contingency planning to cope with disease outbreaks.

This approach works by reducing the chances of a disease entering the animal population, and if it does then it can be quickly spotted and dealt with through the preventative measures.

Animals therefore suffer less, while the livestock industry can work without the expensive, stressful, and restrictive disruptions caused by largescale disease outbreaks.

Animal health policy is fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Ministers are responsible for the response to any exotic notifiable animal disease. Notifiable diseases are named in section 88 of the of the Animal Health Act 1981 or an order made under that act.

Animal health and welfare strategy

The animal health and welfare in the livestock industry: strategy 2016 to 2021 is a five-year strategy, tailored to Scotland's needs. The strategy was prepared in consultation with farming organisations, animal welfare organisations and scientists.

Animal disease guidance and contingency planning

We have produced a series of guidance on animal diseases including:

While we produce our own guidance (detailed above), the United Kingdom contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases provides an overview of the response to an outbreak in the UK. This plan highlights the way the different administrations work together to provide a rapid response and contains details on the structures, roles and responsibilities that are activated during an outbreak.

Rare breeds/breeds at risk

In addition, the FanGR (Farm Animal Genetic Resources) Committee has produced guidelines for developing a contingency plan for breeds at risk (i.e. considered to be kept for conservation purposes in case of a notifiable disease outbreak). Keepers must request for animals to be spared, assuming they are breeds at risk. Animals that have a conservation value may also be spared (including endangered (EN), critically endangered (CR) and extinct in the wild (EW) on the IUCN Red List). Derogation from culling for breeds at risk is not granted automatically in a notifiable disease outbreak and will depend on veterinary risk assessment. It is advisable that you discuss your plan with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in advance of an outbreak.

Animal diseases: international and UK monitoring

Defra and the Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA) are responsible for monitoring animal diseases both internationally and in the UK and produce regular reports on the current situation.

We publish a monthly report on the latest animal disease situation.

Personal food imports

Controls are in place to reduce the risk of contaminated food (in particular meat and dairy products) and plants being brought into the UK and putting people, animals and agriculture at risk of disease. You can check what you can and can’t bring into the UK on the website


Biosecurity is a set of management practices that collectively reduce the potential for the introduction or spread of animal disease-causing organisms on to and between farms.

Read more about:

Animal disease surveillance

Animal disease surveillance is essential:

  • it upholds the health and welfare of Scotland’s kept animals, providing information to vets and animal owners so that diseases can be recognised, treated and prevented
  • it protects public health from zoonotic disease (those diseases passed between humans and animals)
  • it underpins our ability to export animals and their products to Europe and other countries
  • it identifies new, emerging or exotic disease promptly, so that outbreaks can be tackled quickly and efficiently

We fund three surveillance providers to carry out animal disease surveillance in Scotland: Scottish Rural College (SRUC) Veterinary Services; Moredun Research Institute and Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). 

Surveillance outputs can be found here:

Honey bees

We aim achieve a sustainable and healthy population of honey bees in Scotland and set up the Bee Health Improvement Partnership to monitor bee health.

Bird gatherings

Bird gatherings are permitted in Scotland under general licence.

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