Spotlight on: Pigs

Have you ever witnessed a display of emotions in an animal? Does your dog do a “happy dance” and bark for joy when you say the phrase “go for a walk”? Has your cat ever tried to comfort you by purring and kneading your lap when you were sad? Does it drive you crazy when you hear people say that your companion animals can’t experience emotions?


Public understanding of animal cognition and emotion is still growing. Most people understand that animals are capable of experiencing pain. It’s becoming more common knowledge that many animals experience “basic” (think “happy” or “sad”) emotions. But few people understand the degree of cognition that farmed animals experience. 


It’s one thing to understand what animals go through on modern farms. Understanding who farmed animals are changes perspectives. So who are these animals? 


Let’s start with pigs.


You’ve probably heard that pigs are intelligent. But did you know that they are some of the most intelligent domestic animals on Earth? That’s right! Pigs outperform dogs at learning many tasks. They can even rival primates in their long-term memory abilities!


These fascinating animals show high levels of cognition that humans simply cannot continue to ignore. 


Piglets as young as six weeks old are already capable of recognizing and differentiating between other pigs. As they age, they become capable of recognizing a number of human faces and voices as well.


Pigs have indicated a strong potential for self awareness by repeatedly passing the “mirror test” in cognitive trials. In one study, pigs proved to be fully capable of locating food only visible in a mirror’s reflection. Fans were left running in this study to disperse the scent of the food. This way, their powerful noses could be ruled out! 


Pigs consistently outperform dogs and even human toddlers in joystick “video games”, demonstrating a strong ability to use and manipulate tools. Yes, pigs are capable of tool use!


These incredible animals also have an extensive “language”. Higher pitched vocalizations tend to express negative experiences. Lower pitched and shorter vocalizations tend to range towards positive experiences. Here at the sanctuary, we know short and deep grunts best: these mean it’s time for a belly rub!


Pigs rely on vocal cues, body language and even facial expressions to communicate what they’re feeling to one another. Sound familiar? Pigs are every bit as capable of expressing emotions as the dog or cat you may have at home.


Sometimes, learning to care about animals is just a matter of getting to know them. We are lucky to know so many of these special beings. 


Just like humans, every pig is different. Take the sanctuary pigs for example!


Lulu was rescued after her caregiver fell ill. She came to us with nothing but an Elmo stuffed animal. Lulu tends to fall on the crankier side. Can you blame her?!

Wilma was spared after her FFA student caregiver had a change of heart. This huge pink girl is a galumphing, playful giant. She’s curious, kind and full of love. 

Cleo and Angi were both rescued from situations of abuse and neglect. Although Angi is much older than Cleo, the two found comfort in one another. Cleo was just a baby when we rescued her, and we knew she wouldn’t hurt sweet Angi. They’ve healed their traumatic pasts by snuggling close, and are rarely found apart. 

Ivan is another big pig with an even bigger personality. This lovebug was rescued as a rambunctious piglet from a petting zoo. They had planned to send him to slaughter when he grew too large to be pet by children. Ivan insists on rearranging the straw beds that his herd builds every day. This causes quite the controversy in the pig barn. But Ivan won’t be stopped!

These intelligent, emotional, and incredible animals deserve so much better. Once you know them, it’s so much easier to stop hurting them. We hope you’ll consider leaving pig products out of your diet. A vegan lifestyle is easier and more convenient than ever! Cut animal products out of your diet. The pigs and their friends will thank you!


Written by Chelsea Pinkham

Join our Moo-News and stay informed on the happenings at Animal Place as well as ways you can help make this a kinder, more just world for farmed animals!

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