Almost three-quarters of assessments carried out by RSPCA Assured in 2020 were in-person, despite the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19 and Avian Influenza (AI), the charity announced today. And it hopes for all audits to be in-person, as soon as safely possible, following the lifting of the current national lockdown and AI restrictions.
Out of a total of 3,535 assessments last year, 72% (2,541) of these 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.
Between 17 April - when desktop assessments were first rolled out - and 31 December, an impressive 1,796 assessments were still achieved in-person. These were all contactless and carried out according to the Government’s strict social-distancing measures, as well as RSPCA Assured’s own biosecurity protocols.
This result is something RSPCA Assured CEO, Clive Brazier, puts down to the commitment of assessors and members to safeguarding the welfare of both farm animals and people during the pandemic. He says:
“There was a time when I thought we might not get back to visiting farms in person last year. But the determination of staff to get back on-farm, and the willingness of our members to host them when safe to do so, made it possible. Improving farm animal welfare is what we do and I’m really pleased with what’s been achieved.”
Contactless in-person assessments are continuing to be offered during the current national lockdown and AI restrictions, where mutually acceptable. However, RSPCA Assured is keen to return to 100%, mandatory, in-person assessments as soon as it’s safely possible. Brazier continues:
“Desktop assessments have been a great temporary solution but they will remain just that. With the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine now well underway, and Avian Influenza hopefully soon behind us, I’m confident it won’t be long before in-person audits can resume for all of our members. There is nothing more important to assure ourselves, the public, and our members of the welfare of their farm animals, than seeing them in person.”