Pigs have feelings, too (and they prefer a bit of luxury)

By Daily Mail Reporter

Happy as a pig in mud: Pigs kept in pleasant surroundings are likely to be more 'positive' than those who aren't

Pigs can feel optimistic or pessimistic, depending on how they are treated, a study says.

Animals kept in ‘luxury’ are more likely to respond positively to a new experience than those in less stimulating pens.

Scientists hope the research, which shows pigs are capable of complex emotions, will have an impact on animal welfare.

The Newcastle University team, led by Dr Catherine Douglas, devised a technique to ‘ask’ pigs if they were feeling good or bad about life as a result of the way in which they lived.

In an experiment reminiscent of Pavlov’s dogs, pigs were taught to associate a note on a glockenspiel with a treat – an apple – and a dog training ‘clicker’ with something mildly unpleasant – in this case, a rustling plastic bag.

Half of the pigs were then placed in an enriched environment –more space, straw and toys – while the others were put in a smaller, boring pen.

The team then played an ambiguous noise – a squeak – and studied how the pigs responded.

Dr Douglas said: ‘The pigs in the enriched environment were optimistic about this new noise and approached, expecting a treat.

‘The pigs in the boring environment were pessimistic and, fearing it might be the bag, did not approach for a treat.

‘It’s a response we see all the time in humans where how we are feeling affects our judgment.

‘For example, if you’re having a bad day and you’re presented with an ambiguous cue such as your boss calling you into their office, the first thing that goes through your head is “what have I done wrong?”.

‘We can use this technique to finally answer important questions about animal welfare in relation to farm environments.’

Last year Dr Douglas published research that showed cows which were given a name and treated as individuals produced more milk than unnamed cattle.

source: dailymail