Malcolm Johnstone, aquaculture manager for RSPCA Assured, at a fish farm before the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: RSPCA Assured.

RSPCA Assured targets return of farm visits

RSPCA Assured today announced a three-phased return to in-person farm assessments, in a bid to continue safeguarding the welfare of its members and their animals as Covid-19 restrictions ease.

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The certification body suspended in-person assessments on March 23, replacing them with virtual assessments carried out via live streaming through various platforms including WhatsApp, Google Meet and Google Hangouts.

More than half the salmon produced in Scotland is farmed in compliance with the certification body’s standards.

Physical audit

From Monday, June 1 (phase 1), members who are due an assessment will be offered a physical in-person audit. These will only be carried out with the mutual agreement of both the assessor and member and will not be mandatory.

Strict social distancing measures will be observed by assessors, in line with the latest government guidelines. RSPCA Assured has also developed its own ‘contactless’ guidelines for on-farm assessments.

These include the following requirements:

  • Assessor to take their own temperature on the day of assessment
  • PPE, including face mask, to be worn by assessor throughout the visit
  • Assessor to use their own pen for signing paperwork
  • Member to prepare any paperwork, medicines and equipment in advance for assessor to review in a safe area away from other farm staff 
  • Member to be asked to open all gates and doors for the assessor

Where in-person assessments are not possible, they will continue to be carried out via live streaming.  

Clive Brazier: Impressed by how well farmers have adjusted.

‘There is light’

The timings of phases two and three will be subject to the latest government Covid-19 guidance, including that of devolved governments. RSPCA Assured members will receive advance notice of movement between the phases.

RSPCA Assured chief executive Clive Brazier said: “The welfare of the animals and producers in our scheme remains our priority. Members should be reassured that at every phase of our return to in-person assessments, we will be following the latest government advice. If that advice means we have to go back a phase, then that’s what we will do.

“All of us at RSPCA Assured are impressed at how well our members have adjusted to virtual audits during this challenging time. I hope news of our plan to return to ‘normal’, shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel. We will get through this difficult time by continuing to work together.”  

Further information on RSPCA’s Assured three-phased plan and the full set of contactless guidelines can be found here.