RSPCA Assured is rolling out virtual farm assessments this week, using streaming platforms to replace physical inspections.
From today, Monday, April 27, farm members who are due an assessment during the current period of social distancing, will begin receiving the virtual assessments, carried out via various platforms, including Whatsapp, Google Meet and Google Hangouts.
RSPCA Assured said these remote assessments were a temporary measure to protect members during this difficult time, while continuing to ensure the welfare of their animals and deliver certification.
Since routine assessments were suspended on March 23, RSPCA Assured has been working with its certification body, to develop the new temporary remote assessment protocols. They have already been trialled on a number of farms and have received positive feedback, the scheme said.
However, in-person assessments will still be carried out on farms where incidents/complaints relating to animal welfare have been reported, or as part of any special measures agreed with the member.
New applicants are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis and, wherever possible, will be inspected through remote audits.
The temporary introduction of remote assessments will reduce the need for RSPCA Assured to carry out follow-up visits in person, when social distancing measures are lifted, the assurance body added.
Mark Robertson, a senior RSPCA Assured assessor, said: “Put simply, they will be really similar to the physical on-site assessments that our members are already used to, only the assessor won’t actually be there in person. Instead, they’ll be on a live video link where they can see the farm, virtually walk around it and direct the member to what they want to look at.
“It’s incredible really that technology enables us to do this. And it gives me, as an assessor, great peace of mind that we can still support our members whilst ensuring the welfare of their animals during this difficult time.”
Joe Bailey, RSPCA Assured’s head of farming, added: “There are many challenges being faced by our members, and we appreciate their co-operation, patience and understanding during this difficult time.
“Their wellbeing, and the welfare of their animals, remain our priority and we are working hard to ensure we can continue to deliver farm assurance whilst supporting them.
“Our members are doing a valuable, essential and fantastic job and we are incredibly proud of them!”
Red Tractor recently unveiled its plans to roll out remote inspections across the industry.