Who are the RSPCA Farm Livestock Officers?
RSPCA Assured farms are visited more often than any other UK assurance scheme. All farms on the RSPCA Assured scheme are visited once a year by one of our assessors. These are species-specific experts who ensure all of the RSPCA’s higher welfare standards are being met. In addition to these visits, many farms are also visited by one of the RSPCA’s Farm Livestock Officers (FLOs).
These visits are, whenever possible, unannounced, and are one of the things which set the RSPCA and RSPCA Assured apart from other assurance schemes.
What’s the difference between an RSPCA Assured assessor and a FLO?
The RSPCA Assured assessors are the team that carries out full annual assessments, while the FLO team carry out the monitoring visits.
RSPCA Assured assessors are specialised to visit specific types of farm, that might be pigs or chickens or hens or even multiple species. The RSPCA’s FLOs are organised and work on a geographical basis; within their designated areas, they visit all types of farm and are knowledgeable on all animal farming systems.
Much like RSPCA Assured assessors, the FLOs check that the RSPCA welfare standards are being maintained but unlike our assessors, they are able to advise on different farming practises and how best to implement the standards. So when any non-compliance is found advice can be given on how best to rectify this, along with setting a suitable deadline for correction.
In order to maintain good farm management, our assessors must ensure that all records (vaccinations, vet visits etc…) are kept up to date. While the FLOs also check policies, plans and records, they have more scope to focus purely on animal welfare.
The Farm Livestock Officers often form part of the RSPCA’s STAGs - what are the STAGs - as such they provide the RSPCA’s Farm Animal Department with a lot of information and on-the-ground farm experience used to help guide the development of the welfare standards.
Let’s meet the FLOs
There are five members of the RSPCA’s FLO team. They are located across the country and each person is responsible for his or her region.
Allan Pearson - Field Operations Manager
Whole of the UK
Allan has been working in agriculture for over 40 years. After leaving school in 1977, he worked on a local dairy farm. Two years later, he attended Lancashire College of Agriculture where he obtained an OND in general agriculture. For the following seven years, he ran his own business before starting work for the MMB (which became Genus) for nine years.
Allan joined the RSPCA as a Farm Livestock Officer in 1998 and covered the North of England and Scotland. He has now been the Field Operations Manager for over ten years and in that time has conducted over 3,000 monitoring visits.
“I feel I have made a real difference to farm animal welfare”. - Allan Pearson
Charlotte Thomas - Senior Farm Livestock Officer
South East and Central UK
Charlotte has been working at the RSPCA for almost eleven years and is responsible for monitoring all species on the RSPCA Assured scheme. She has a degree in Animal Health and Welfare from Harper Adams University College and a lifelong passion for farm animal welfare. Prior to joining the RSPCA, she worked as an Animal Health Inspector for Trading Standards in South Wales and was part of a research team at the University of Warwick looking into factors affecting Post Weaning Multisystemic Wasting Disease Syndrome (PMWS) in pigs. Her love of farm animals extends outside of work; she has shown pedigree Hereford and Simmental cattle and owned her own flock of rare breed sheep and chickens.
Phil McCarthy - Farm Livestock Officer
South West of England
Phil has worked for the RSPCA for over thirty years. After school, he worked on a nutrition research farm before moving to Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to work as an animal technician. In 1986, he joined the RSPCA. He received the RSPCA Special Service Medal for work carried out on a cruelty case that national papers headlined as “Is this the country’s cruellest farmer?". Phil was part of a team team awarded a Special Eurogroup Medal for work relating to covert trailing of live farm animals across Europe. After 21 years he left to become an Enforcement Officer at Trading Standards Animal Health Team for Staffordshire County Council, he returned to the RSPCA as a FLO in October 2008.