Lazy, filthy pigs? Think again
Pigs are often associated with negative labels such as ‘filthy’, ‘lazy’ and ‘greedy’. But why is the word ‘pig’ used as an insult, and is there any truth to it?
The reality beyond the stereotypes
Science shows pigs are intelligent, emotional, inquisitive animals, who engage in a range of complex behaviours. When you look at it this way, they don’t deserve to be connected with commonly-used insults.
Many people believe that pigs are lazy animals and that they spend much of their time lying around in the mud. In reality, pigs are just as energetic as some of the animals you may keep as a pet. In the Bahamas, you'll find pigs who are keen swimmers. The wild pigs there enjoy swimming in the clear waters of its small, uninhabited islands.
Pigs are sensitive and social creatures
Not only are pigs energetic creatures, they're also friendly and sociable animals. Research shows that pigs enjoy playing together , especially when music is playing . They are empathetic creatures who are affected by the emotions of other pigs .
Many people don't see pigs as emotional creatures in the same way as animals that we keep as pets such as dogs. However, pigs have been seen to wag their tails in response to seeing mates experience something positive, and hold their ears back when other pigs experience something negative , just like dogs do.
There are many other qualities which prove that pigs are sensitive creatures. For example, piglets are attached to their mothers and are known to scream in distress when they are separated.
Pigs are very smart, and can even use mirrors to assess their environment. When pigs were shown a reflection of their food bowl, they used the reflection to locate their food .
They are often seen as filthy, but pigs actually use mud as sunscreen to protect their delicate skin, which is prone to burning in the sun.
The complex needs of pigs are often not met on farms
Pigs descended from the Eurasian wild boar, and there is little difference in the behavioural needs of domestic pigs from those of their wild ancestors . For example, they need space and the opportunity to forage to be happy and healthy.
In poor welfare farming systems, pigs often do not have the chance to behave in the way they need to. They're not given the space or freedom to play and forage.
Studies show pigs housed in close confinement with one another are more aggressive , and often demonstrate their mental suffering through bar and tail biting. These behaviours usually occur when pigs are frustrated, bored and have a lack of control over their surroundings.
These behaviours usually occur when pigs are frustrated, bored and have a lack of control over their surroundings.
The farming industry must consider pigs’ needs
Regardless of negative associations with pigs, research has proven that they are no different to many other animals, including the pets we share our homes with.
Pigs feel a range of complex emotions, and can suffer both physically and mentally.
We’re working with companies in some of the biggest pork producing countries to promote higher welfare farming alternatives, such as indoor group housing and free-range farming. We want to see a world where every pig farm is designed around the welfare needs of the animals.
Find out more
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