Providing toys to pigs can improve the human-animal relationship

Source: Porcine Health Management, 10 November 2020, photo credit: Reddit

It is now widely recognised that a positive human-animal relationship is beneficial not only for farm animals’ welfare but also for productivity and the quality of products.

A better understanding of animal emotions is an important goal in disciplines ranging from neuroscience to animal welfare science, but few reliable tools exist for measuring these emotions. In this study, whether the provision of toys to solicit play behaviour in pigs is associated with a change in the human-animal relationship and the emotional state of pigs was investigated.

We involved a group of sixteen mini-pigs housed in an experimental setting and the use of a preliminary test called the ‘strange person’ test. After a Control and a Play session (with medium-sized dog toys, balls with ropes), the strange person test was performed.

During the test, a person wearing a colourful overall, a hood, a mask, gloves and boots (unknown person with an odd appearance) entered the pen, where 2 mini-pigs were housed, for a 2-min video recording. The strange person test results after the Play and Control sessions were compared.
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The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.