Perceptions Of Pig Sentience And Suffering In Chile
Animals are often considered to have “good” welfare when they are physically healthy, well-fed, able to express their natural behaviors, and free from negative states (like distress or pain). Pigs are typically recognized as sentient beings, but they suffer immensely on factory farms. For example, like other farmed animals, they are crowded into small spaces and may experience unnecessary suffering from injuries and distress.
The authors of this study recognize that consumers around the world care more about animal welfare than they have in the past. At the same time, they may hold different views about pigs compared to those who work with them daily. Understanding the views of different stakeholders is essential to improving how pigs are treated in the animal agriculture industry.
The researchers surveyed 919 Chilean residents, including pig farm workers, pig slaughterhouse workers, and members of the general public, to understand their opinions regarding pigs. Specifically, the authors wanted to know whether pigs are seen as sentient and whether they’re attributed with positive characteristics (e.g., that they are intelligent and friendly) or negative ones (e.g., that they are gluttonous, dirty, and stubborn). Finally, participants who worked with pigs were surveyed about their knowledge of tail and skin lesions and lameness, while general citizens were asked how these problems impact pig suffering and meat quality.
Members of the public and slaughterhouse workers were more likely to recognize that pigs can experience feelings compared to those who work on farms. Meanwhile, the public and farm workers attributed more positive characteristics to pigs than slaughterhouse workers. Notably, most members of the public who participated in the survey were meat-eaters.
Farm and slaughterhouse workers mostly stated that ear lesions, tail lesions and lameness were uncommon in their places of work. Their knowledge of factors that can cause such injuries aligned with previous research (specifically, they named packing animals into small spaces, poor diets, and lack of environmental enrichment as key causes). The general public recognized that these injuries were likely to make pigs suffer, while there was a mixed opinion regarding how they could affect meat quality — older participants were more likely to believe that it would.
The study shows that members of the public in Chile do recognize that pigs are sentient, possess positive attributes, and can suffer. Since consumers tend to drive change, animal advocates in Chile can use this information to highlight how industry practices harm pigs by exploiting them, suppressing their positive attributes, and causing them physical and mental suffering.
Finally, the study shows that slaughterhouse workers are willing to grant some degree of sentience to pigs, while farm workers admit to some positive characteristics. Since these are the individuals who directly care for pigs, it is vital for animal advocates to ensure the welfare these workers are providing aligns with their positive views of the animals they work with.