Yes, pigs are smart as dogs: Oink, oink


HUG HOGS, JUNK PORK Pigs, which have been found to be as intelligent as dogs according to a study, are having a bad rap in the wake of scams involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the official name of the pork barrel of senators and members of the House of Representatives. These hogs were photographed at a farm in Buckhart, Illinois. A study says there’s extensive evidence that pigs are as smart and sociable as dogs. AP

NEW YORK—There’s extensive evidence that pigs are as smart and sociable as dogs. Yet one species is afforded affection and respect; the other faces mass slaughter en route to becoming bacon, ham and pork chops.

Seeking to capitalize on that discrepancy, animal welfare advocates are launching a campaign called The Someone Project that aims to highlight research depicting pigs, chickens, cows and other farm animals as more intelligent and emotionally complex than commonly believed.

The hope is that more people might view these animals with the same empathy that they view dogs, cats, elephants, great apes and dolphins.

“When you ask people why they eat chickens but not cats, the only thing they can come up with is that they sense cats and dogs are more cognitively sophisticated than the species we eat—and we know this isn’t true,” said Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary, the animal protection and vegan advocacy organization that is coordinating the new project.

“What it boils down to is people don’t know farm animals the way they know dogs or cats,” Friedrich said. “We’re a nation of animal lovers and yet the animals we encounter most frequently are the animals we pay people to kill so we can eat them.”

Sophisticated animals

The lead scientist for the project is Lori Marino, a lecturer in psychology at Emory University who has conducted extensive research on the intelligence of whales, dolphins and primates.

She plans to review existing scientific literature on farm animals’ intelligence, identify areas warranting new research and prepare reports on her findings that would be circulated worldwide via social media, videos and her personal attendance at scientific conferences.

“I want to make sure this is all taken seriously,” Marino said in an interview. “The point is not to rank these animals but to reeducate people about who they are. They are very sophisticated animals.”

For Marino and Friedrich, who are both vegans, the goals of the project are twofold—to build broader public support for the humane treatment of farm animals and to boost the ranks of Americans who choose not to eat meat.

“This project is not a way to strong-arm people into going vegan overnight but giving them a fresh perspective and maybe making them a little uncomfortable,” Marino said.

“Maybe they’ll be thinking, ‘Hmm, I didn’t know cows and pigs could recognize each other and have special friends,’” she said. “That might make them squirm a little, but that’s OK.”

The major associations representing chicken and pork producers say the farmers they represent already have taken strides to minimize cruel treatment of farm animals.

Cruel treatment

“While animals raised for food do have a certain degree of intelligence, Farm Sanctuary is seeking to humanize them to advance its vegan agenda—an end to meat consumption,” said David Warner of the National Pork Producers Council.

“While vegans have a right to express their opinion—and we respect that right—they should not force their lifestyle on others,” Warner added.

Gwen Venable of the US Poultry and Egg Association said poultry provided a valuable, affordable source of protein.

“Consumers should be able choose their food based on their own dietary preferences and nutritional needs, and without being unduly influenced by any one group’s personal agenda,” Venable wrote in an e-mail.

“We do not feel that Farm Sanctuary’s campaign is reasonable, as the campaign’s ultimate goal would be to eradicate poultry and pork from consumers’ diets,” she added.

Thomas Super of the National Chicken Council said efforts to link farm animals with household pets was part of a strategy to create a “meat-free society.”

Super also contended that the farmers and companies involved in raising chickens had a vested interest in ensuring they are healthy and well-treated.

20 different oinks

While The Someone Project will encompass several species of farm animals, pigs are likely to be one of the prime subjects, given the breadth of past studies of their intelligence and behavior. Some researchers say pigs’ cognitive abilities are superior to 3-year-old children, as well as to dogs and cats.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has a section on its website titled, “The Hidden Lives of Pigs,” which depicts them as social, playful and protective animals with a vocabulary of more than 20 different oinks, grunts and squeaks.

“Pigs are known to dream, recognize their own names, learn tricks, like sitting for a treat, and lead social lives of a complexity previously observed only in primates,” the website says. “Like humans, pigs enjoy listening to music, playing with soccer balls and getting massages.”

The website recounts news stories of pigs saving the lives of imperiled humans and saving themselves by jumping off trucks bound for slaughterhouses.

Bob Martin, a food systems expert at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said he developed an appreciation of pigs’ emotional complexity while serving recently as executive director of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production.

“Pigs in gestation crates show a lot of signs of depression,” he said. “When I went to a farm operation in Iowa, where pigs were not confined, they came running up to greet the farmer like they were dogs. They wanted to interact with him.”

Individual differences

Bernard Rollin, a Colorado State University professor who teaches both philosophy and animal science, said he expected increasing numbers of meat-eaters to join the ranks of those demanding changes in the way pigs are housed at many large facilities.

“You have to have ideological blindness to think these animals are not intelligent,” Rollin said. “I hope we go back to an agriculture that works more with the animals’ biological and psychological needs, and nature rather than against them.”

“The trouble is, we’re used to seeing them as herds,” he said. “You see 1,000 cows or pigs and think, ‘Oh, they’re all the same.’ But there are actually huge individual differences.”

According to Farm Sanctuary, cows become excited over intellectual challenges, chickens can navigate mazes and anticipate the future, and sheep can remember the faces of dozens of individual humans and other sheep for more than two years.

There is existing research suggesting that campaigns such as The Someone Project may make headway in influencing consumers.

Foremost concern

In one recent study examining doubts that people might have about eating meat, University of British Columbia psychologists Matthew Ruby and Steven Heine concluded that the animal’s level of intelligence was the foremost concern.

Another recent study by university researchers from Australia and Britain concluded that many meat-eaters experienced moral conflict if reminded of the intelligence of the animals they are consuming.

“Although most people do not mind eating meat, they do not like thinking of animals they eat as having possessed minds,” the researchers wrote in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • bonobojean

    goats are the new filipino pig… easier to raise and feeds itself… you will be seeing more of them at parties in the future…

  • anu12345

    It’s unfair for the pigs to drag their name into the congress fiasco.

  • DGuardian

    Most humans regard animals as mere commodities, not the breathing creatures of the Almighty God, whose stewardship or custody is unfortunately entrusted to humans. Pigs, as well as cattle, carabaos, horses, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, cats, dogs, and other animals live in perpetual bondage during their brief, lonely, forsaken, and tormented existence on earth. Like humans, pigs and the rest of the animals feel pain, hunger, thirst, extremes of temperature, discomfort, exhaustion, fear, loneliness, sadness, and abandonment. Like humans, they long for affection and companionship. Their respective untimely exits from this world, set and arranged for them by humans, are as equally horrendous, revolting, and heartrending.

  • DGuardian

    I came from a meat-eating family, but later in life, compassion for animals took over and I was able to stop eating meat altogether. The words of one of Oprah Winfrey’s fans, which made the former stop eating meat, aptly define my sentiments over the matter: “the pain behind the meat”. I look at the animals and I am overwhelmed with so much pity for them. They are so hapless and powerless creatures that do not have even a minuscule amount of control over their own lives and their own fates. Their existence or nonexistence in this merciless world entirely depends on humans, who more often than not, are brutal, savage, and innately and extremely greedy and selfish.

  • DGuardian

    I remember reading, so many years ago, one of the articles of Mr. Neal Cruz, the distinguished columnist of the PDI and a veritable animal advocate. It was about the study conducted by a group of foreign scientists in order to determine whether animals, like humans, have emotions. The positive result of the study was not really astonishing inasmuch as we, humans, could deduce by ourselves the same finding by simply watching cats, dogs, and other domesticated animals and in this case, pigs, interact with humans. Not surprisingly at times, even nondomesticated animals exhibit unmistakable signs of varied emotions.

    To be able to perceive and react with the whole gamut of feelings is undeniably a telltale sign of intelligence. So, animals possess a certain level of intelligence and have emotions like we, humans, do , but unlike us, they are sadly not equipped with the ability to speak and express what they think and feel. In such very unfortunate and deplorably unprotected state of existence, animals are abused, battered, tortured, exploited, and slaughtered by merciless humans.

  • DGuardian

    I feel so sad for the animals. I think of the humongous and indescribably horrifying physical and psychological anguish that cruel humans inflict on them and I am filled with so much grief. Animals have a nervous system like humans do and so, nerve fibers are distributed to every part of their bodies. I imagine the extremely tremendous and racking pain and horror they suffer when merciless people torture them, beat them to death, or slaughter them savagely. The evil that people do to animals are truly beyond words. I pray to God to free the animals from humans and bring them to a place or to another planet, where inhumane humans could not reach them and be able to hurt, torment, persecute, and slaughter them; to a place, where they could be free and find rest, comfort, peace, love, and happiness among themselves at last.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94