Most people disregard pigs and categorize them as a stinky, lower-class species of inferior intelligence that were put on the earth to accompany some morning eggs or provide the centerpiece for an Easter feast.
To begin with, pigs are actually not dirty. When placed in an individual, confined space, pigs do their best to keep it neat, tidy and clean. They do not have sweat glands so the expression “I sweat like a hog”, is simply not possible. As far as the wallowing in mud, pigs do this to help cool their body (remember, they can’t sweat), keep insects away…and also to have some fun!
How Intelligent Are Pigs?
In a study conducted by Emory University researchers including Lori Marino, Ph.D., it was concluded that pigs are similar in intelligence to chimpanzees, dogs, elephants, dolphins, and even humans.
Other recent studies have shown that pigs have certain cognitive functions that are closely related to young children. They are self-aware, have the ability to form likes and dislikes, experience emotions, and even enjoy various degrees of creative play.
Pigs display and/or react to distinguishing cues between a happy, rewarding outcome and a stressful scenario. In one situation pigs were exposed to two different types of music that led to a positive or a negative outcome. The pigs quickly recognized the difference between the reward-based outcome and the socially negative outcome. Next, naïve pigs were put in the same pen as the trained pigs and the naïve pigs adopted the same emotional queues as their “trained” counterparts. This study, along with others that have been completed or are currently underway, prove that pigs have complex emotional processes that include behavior and cognition.
Of the pigs alive in the US today, 95% are factory-farmed to feed the seemingly insatiable appetite for everything from bacon to pork tenderloin. Their brief lives are nothing short of horrible. Pigs can live about 15 to 20 years but factory-farmed animals are generally dead or slaughtered within 5 years. During those few years, they most likely will never see trees, the sky, or feel grass beneath their feet.
When female pigs are old enough to give birth they are artificially inseminated and forced into gestation crates, which measure approximately 7-feet long and 2-feet wide, and remain caged for the duration of their lives. The crates are so narrow that they cannot even turn around. Thankfully 9 states in the US have banned these prisons. The states include – Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Rhode Island. Although this is a great first step that will vastly improve the lives of thousands of factory-farmed pigs living in those states, the reality is that group housing or alternative cages, which are slightly larger than gestation crates are a tiny improvement; however the animals are still exploited, treated inhumanely, and live in deplorable conditions.
The Top 10 US Pig and Hog producing states account for approximately 70 million factory-farmed pigs. Only one of those top 10 states, Ohio, has a law against gestation crates. That means that millions of female cows from the other nine top-producing states are subjected to gestation crates for their entire life.
Conditions for these defenseless animals are so cruel that the pigs suffer from bleeding gums obtained from trying to bite through the metal bars to escape and bone-chilling high-pitched squeals of despair that can go on for hours at a time.
Factory farmed mother pigs (sows) are temporarily moved to farrowing crates after giving birth which are a little wider to allow room for them to nurse their newborn babies. However, piglets are taken from their mothers as young as 10 days old and the female pig is once again impregnated. This vicious cycle continues for 3 or 4 years or until that pig is slaughtered.
A typical slaughterhouse kills an average of 1,000 pigs per hour and their deaths are inhumane and filled with excruciating pain. Pigs are supposed to be stunned but many remain completely alive when reaching scalding-hot water baths that are used to efficiently remove body hair.
If all of this is not enough to make a person consider a plant-based diet, there are also the numerous studies that have concluded ingesting pork products notably raises the risk of certain cancers, increases the likelihood of diabetes, and also heightens the possibility of being sickened or killed by foodborne pathogens. In addition, each factory farmed pig (remember there are 70 million of them at one time in the US) produces an average of 9 lbs. of manure daily which continues to pollute the air and waterways.
Is it really worth it? How much better off are you? The Planet? and, of equal importance…The Pig?