Annie Davis has worked at the George Veterinary Group for 19 years. She is one of a team of seven pig vets, based in Malmesbury, Wiltshire
Red Tractor Farm Assurance has communicated its intention to increase the strength and breadth of its food chain assurance scheme, with ‘strengthening of the inspection regime to ensure robust compliance’ a top priority.
In essence, farms that are non-compliant and have non-conformances raised at inspection visits will be more likely to receive unannounced inspections.
Occasionally a producer will ring the office and cancel a quarterly vet visit. Most of the time this is due to an unforeseen event, such as a plumbing disaster, a major mechanical mishap or a family issue. Postponing a routine visit seems entirely reason- able in these circumstances. What is less reasonable is the excuse ‘we’re not ready for you’. This implies that a certain amount of tidying up or preparation is needed for what should be an uncomplicated veterinary visit.
The Red Tractor view is that farms and producers should be compliant with the standards 365 days a year, not just on the days they have an inspection. An increased visit rate based on the rate and type of previous non-compliances, makes the ‘I’ll get through the audit and then correct the non-conformances when I’m picked up on them’ approach a lot less palatable.
Ensuring everything is up to date, including the paperwork (and I sigh as I write that, paperwork not being everyone’s strongest suit) would seem a reasonable incentive for producers to ensure that their units are compliant every day.
The self-styled ‘animal rights’ activists that have plagued producers over the summer do not wait until producers are prepared for them, increasing the need for everyone on farm to ensure that all routine jobs are completed and the farm is left tidy at the end of each working day. I would far rather the incentive to comply with Farm Assurance Standards came from a desire to be compliant rather than as a reaction to, or result of, dubious activities by militants working outside the confines of the law or common decency.
Infectious diseases, as unwelcome a pathogen as a member of any activist group, will also not wait until all is ready. We are staring down the barrel of a gun now that African swine fever has been confirmed in wild boar in Belgium. Any deviation from a rigorous biosecurity protocol could be the one that exposes your unit to an ever-greater threat of catastrophic disease.
Common sense cannot be disregarded. Exceptional circumstances may lead to audits being postponed. Let us ensure they are that – exceptional events rather than a desire to dodge inspection because there are obvious reasons why non-conformances would be raised. If your farm is not compliant 365 days of the year, now is a good time to examine why and how that can be addressed.