Pigs Can Perceive And Estimate Time Passing
When we think about farmed animal issues, we often think about the physical conditions they live in, their transportation between farms and to slaughter, and any other specific instances of cruelty that they may have to endure. One of the things we don’t often think about, however, is the amount of time they have to spend in the farm setting, and the kind of toll that may have on their overall welfare. Though most farmed animals are often sent to slaughter well before the end of their natural lifespans, if they are still spending months and years on farms, knowing how they perceive that time could have serious implications.
Here, the researchers wanted to address the ability of pigs to estimate time, because the results of such research would be “relevant to their housing” and because previous studies have explored their memory capacities, which are “partly dependent on and interwoven with their timing abilities.” At an experimental farm, and using a “peak-interval approach,” the researchers used a reward set up that “resembled a renewable resource” to see whether the pigs could predict the replenishment of that resource across several days, and act accordingly. They also used a shorter form of experiment to see if pigs could estimate time intervals in minutes. What they found was that the pigs were able to estimate the 5 day intervals after the training, but they didn’t seem to be able to learn times in the range of minutes.
For animal advocates, the study shows that pigs are able to sense the passage of time across days at a time, and adjust their behavior to get rewards. What’s more, this is but one study, and the since this subject may not have been studied as extensively as other aspects of animal welfare, so the implications could be deeper. Knowing that pigs feel the passage of time in such a way puts their treatment, and their confinement, in greater perspective, and can be included in farmed animal advocacy to inform the public.