Animal welfare body RSPCA Assured will be returning to in-person assessments as standard from 17 May, in line with easing Covid-19 restrictions in the UK.
The organisation, which carries out independent welfare audits in the livestock and fish farming sectors, said its visits will be “contactless” with the safety and welfare of both members and their animals remaining a priority.
RSPCA Assured audits all the leading operators in the UK’s salmon farming industry, as well as safeguarding the welfare of a wide range of other farmed species. The organisation said: “All of the dates are in line with the current UK and devolved administration planning and RSPCA Assured will continue monitoring the roadmap as it progresses.
“RSPCA farm livestock officers, who carry out monitoring of RSPCA Assured members between assessments, will also fully resume in-person visits from 17 May.”
The visits will be carried out using RSPCA Assured’s “contactless assessment protocol”. The steps back towards normality are set out in a graphic from the organisation (see below).
Clive Brazier, CEO RSPCA Assured, said: “Desktop assessments and monitoring visits have been a great temporary solution for some of our members during this difficult period, to safeguard the welfare of both them and their animals.
“But there is nothing more important to assure ourselves, the public, and our members of the welfare of their farm animals, than seeing them face to face. It’s what RSPCA Assured is all about. Our assessors and the RSPCA’s farm livestock officers can’t wait to get back on all farms, doing what they love best.”
Almost three-quarters of assessments carried out by RSPCA Assured in 2020 were in-person, despite the challenges of Covid-19 and Avian Influenza.
Out of a total of 3,535 assessments last year, the organisation says, 72% (2,541) were conducted in person, with the remaining 994 carried out via live video streaming.
In addition, 93% (867) of monitoring visits – carried out on RSPCA Assured farms by RSPCA farm livestock officers – last year were in person.
Desktop assessments – carried out via live video streaming – were temporarily made compulsory by RSPCA Assured from 17 April for six weeks, when Covid restrictions were at their tightest. But, from 1 June onwards, in-person assessments resumed on a case by case basis (with the mutual consent of both member and assessor), with live video assessments remaining a temporary option.