The Lives of Pigs

Pig Emotion & Cognition

Pigs are often characterized as “dirty,” “impure,” and even “stupid.” But this is far from the truth. Pigs are actually some of the cleanest and smartest animals. They surely are smarter than dogs, and they outperform 3-year-old humans on cognition tests. For instance, pigs are often better than dogs and even chimpanzees when it comes to completing mazes, and they frequently outperform dogs and chimps when it comes to both long-term memory and problem-solving tasks. Perhaps even more surprisingly, pigs are really good at and enjoy playing video games! In fact, a recent study conducted by Farm Sanctuary found that “pigs could play video games with more focus and success than chimps” and “dogs couldn’t figure it out at all.” Another study by Wageningen University found that pigs are captivated and mentally-stimulated by video games, much like humans.

Pigs also exhibit degrees of emotional intelligence that is comparable to that of toddlers. For instance, pigs are incredibly empathetic. In fact, research indicates that pigs who live near other happy animals tend to live happier lives, while pigs who live with stressful animals tend to develop stress. This is partially because pigs, like humans, are social animals. When left to their own devices, they tend to live in groups of approximately eight piggies. They enjoy the company of other pigs, just as humans enjoy the company of other humans.

Typically, pigs like to do what many humans enjoy: eat, play with each other, nap, and let their natural curiosity guide them. Just as humans use tools to get around in the world, pigs use their snouts to root. Rooting is a method of exploring for food, and with their handy snouts, pigs can shove things out of their way, when need be. When pigs are not confined to small spaces, they love to explore with their snouts, which are incredibly sensitive and easily stimulated.

Both pigs and humans are omnivores with similar digestive anatomies, and, consequently, pigs and humans often enjoy the same kinds of food. Pigs, like humans, are known to love apricots, beets, grapes, oranges, cherries, and other kinds of fruit. And pigs can be very picky eaters, just like humans! They are known to dislike onions, cabbage, and even cauliflower.

And here’s something surprising: pigs are incredible clean! In fact, they are so clean that they keep their sleeping spaces tidy and tend to only relieve their bowels in specific locations that they have dedicated to that purpose. While pigs are often characterized as being dirty because they like to roll around in the mud, what people usually don’t know is that pigs do this to cool off. Pigs, unlike humans, don’t have many sweat glands, so rolling about in the mud is the best way for them to keep cool in the heat.

Pigs on Today’s Factory Farms

Pigs are killed on farms so that humans can consume their bodies in the form of “pork.” In the United States alone, 121 million pigs are slaughtered each year, and in China, this number is even larger, as over 715 million pigs are slaughtered each year. Worldwide, over 1.4 billion pigs are slaughtered yearly!

Most people are horrified when they learn how terribly pigs are treated on factory farms. After being artificially inseminated, female “breeding” pigs are often confined to tiny “gestation” crates. These crates, which are, on average, 7 feet long and 2 feet wide, are so small that they prevent pigs from turning around and laying down.

After “breeding” pigs give birth, they and their piglets are moved to “farrowing” crates, which are just large enough for the mothers to nurse their babies. When the piglets are around 10 days old, they are separated from their mothers. The “breeding” pigs are then forcibly impregnated once again and sent back to their “gestation” crates. The horrifying cycle of “forcible impregnation to gestation crate to farrowing crate to forcible impregnation” continues again and again for these “breeding” pigs, usually for about 3-4 years, after which they are sent to slaughter. The boredom, isolation, and frustration these pigs endure causes them to engage in neurotic behavior, such as bar-biting and sham chewing (i.e., the repetitive chewing of nothing).

“Meat” pigs who aren’t confined to crates are imprisoned in over-crowed sheds or pens for about 6 months, after which they are sent to slaughter. These naturally clean, happy, and sociable animals live in conditions of filth, sadness, and confinement. When confined in these incredibly unnatural and barren conditions, pigs often develop unnatural habits, such as cannibalism or self-mutilation.

Moreover, because the overcrowded and unnatural conditions of factory farms cause so much stress, anxiety, and panic, pigs will often bite the tails of one another. To prevent this from happening, factory farm employees cut their tails off (“tail dock”) and use pliers to rip out their teeth, all without anesthetic. Pigs endure these mutilations while fully conscious, which causes them emotional trauma as well as physical harm. Male pigs are usually castrated without anesthetic.

All pigs are vulnerable to random acts of cruelty. Indeed, undercover factory farming investigations often capture farm employees swinging piglets around by their hind legs and slamming their heads into the ground, which results in painful death spasms.

Tragically, the final days of the lives of pigs are filled with immense suffering. Before reaching the slaughterhouse, pigs often travel for long periods of time in cramped trucks, without food or water. Many die from dehydration or injury while in transport, before even reaching the slaughterhouse. Others arrive at the slaughterhouse unable to walk due to transport-related injuries. Once at the slaughterhouse, they feel extreme fear and terror as they wait in line to be killed. Due to improper methods of stunning, they are often fully conscious when their throats are slit and they bleed out.

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