SPCA is opposed to the use of virtual fencing technology for farmed animals that relies on aversive training techniques.
Virtual fencing technology is an emerging alternative to a physical fence, primarily used for cattle. A collar is placed on the animals which deters them from passing a defined virtual boundary by using an aversive stimulus. The boundary can be changed frequently based on GPS coordinates. Generally, the collar will deliver an auditory cue first as the animal approaches the boundary, which if ignored will escalate to an electrical shock. The animal is expected to learn to associate the auditory cue with the boundary over time.
Our organisation opposes the use of aversive training techniques or equipment that punishes animals. Aversive training or control techniques are based on the principle of directly and deliberately applying an unpleasant stimulus to the animal to stop or prevent unwanted behaviour. Inescapable, unpredictable punishment is known to be particularly detrimental to welfare.
Each individual animal will learn and react differently to virtual fencing technology. While some individuals may be able to learn quickly and experience minimal problems, SPCA is concerned that some individuals will not adapt to the use of a collar and will experience poor welfare. In addition, infrastructure failure (in terms of animals being able to escape the fence, or in terms of collars malfunctioning) is a concern.
SPCA considers that further research which addresses these welfare concerns is required before virtual fencing technology is deployed onto New Zealand farms, and that the technology may never be suitable for some applications.