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Pigs are not just food

Posted by siyerwin on Wednesday, March 04, 2009 at 1:24 PM

Pigs are some of the most intelligent animals of this planet, maybe even more intelligent than dogs and even chimpanzees. In the wild, pigs have to forage to survive and so they have to be very creative at getting to their food sources. Experiments on hogs or pigs that were featured on National Geographic's Hog Genius showed that pigs are capable of lateral thinking. They can think on their own feet and come up with different solutions to achieve an objective.

One experiment involved a video game where the pig had to move a ball into a specified area on the screen using its snout to control the joystick. The pig did it very well even in different scenarios where the target areas became smaller and smaller. If I remember it right I think they compared the pig with a dog or a chimpanzee and the former showed better performance in achieving the objectives.

Another experiment was one where a pig was told to bring a small ball (a real one) into a target by pushing the ball on the floor with its snout. The pig had a lot of trouble directing the ball to the target's direction because it kept rolling to other directions. The surprise came when the pig actually decided to change strategy and instead of bringing the ball to the target, it brought the target to the ball using the same snout pushing strategy! The pig cheated! It chose an easier solution to a problem and executed it on its own volition. My jaw dropped to the ground!

There is a growing interest in measuring the intelligence and emotions of animals that we have never thought about before. This report about animal intelligence being explored is an example of such studies and mentions pigs as one of the main interests. Apparently, pigs, aside from the outstanding intelligence, also exhibits emotional responses that are quite similar to those of human beings.

The producer of NGC's Hog Genius, David Hamlin, shared on the NGC Blog:

The bottom line: As I hope Hog Genius shows, pigs are highly intelligent, have rich emotional lives, and are deeply affected by the same trauma that can cripple human beings. Witnessing pigs struggling to find a hidden platform in a pool, or searching for refuge in an elevated maze, confirmed my sense of how similar we humans and pigs are. We look nothing alike, but we are clearly kindred spirits: and that’s the lasting Genius of Hogs to me...

From then on I started seeing pigs in a different light. Pork chops started tasting a little different (As of today my menu is 6 months pig-free and 8 months cow-free!). I began to realize that we are actually eating intelligent beings that are capable of emotion and I couldn't imagine how much suffering these animals go through to provide us sustenance.

And they do suffer. Images like those in the Earthlings documentary are forever etched into my mind.

Do pigs suffer here in the Philippines? Definitely. They are condemned to death because of a disease outbreak that was not even their fault in the first place and they are starved while they await their execution.

I recently received an email from PAWS containing its account on the pig culling currently being carried out on the ebola reston infected farm pigs in Bulacan. Even as I write this post, there are thousands of pigs there waiting for their death.

Below is a one of the official photos released by authorities. The PAWS representative who was there to observe had this to say: "Notice the bloodstained truck. Some pigs were killed using captive bolts on the truck. The rest who are being led down are to be shot by PNP sharpshooters with 22 caliber guns. Not all could be killed at the same time and the sheer number made it impossible for the pigs to be killed away from the view of the other pigs who were still alive. It was heartwrenching to watch some pigs nuzzling their other companions who lay dead on the ground."

Notice one who was leading the rest... I think he already knew what he needed to do...

Is there anything that can be done to prevent more of these things from happening? I can think of one: stop eating too much meat. Note that I didn't say stop eating meat altogether. I know that for many, this can be an impossible feat. But if we just reduce our consumption, maybe, just maybe, animal farms will not be too populated such that an outbreak of diseases like this will not instantly mean death for thousands. Maybe there won't even be such diseases at all or such stuff that scare the heebie jeebies out of us that we are forced to resort to inhumane methods of defending our own lives.

Read report: 795 hogs culled in Bulacan farm

Below is the PAWS statement on the pig culling:

Dear advocates,

PAWS was there to check on the culling of the first batch of pigs in Pandi, Bulacan last Sunday.

It was difficult and traumatic for our lone observer but the alternative scenario (not having an animal welfare advocate in the "Hot Zone") could have been worse for the condemned pigs.

We gave our recommendations to the BAI and DOH on how to refine handling of the pigs. The distributor of some of the captive bolts have been in touch with us and we have referred them to BAI so that they can check on the 'jammed' equipment.

Last Sunday, PAWS found out that the pigs had not been fed since Tuesday - the reason why there was a 'humming' sound punctuated by frequent squealings coming from the pigs.
"Yang ugong na yan (That sound)", the Farm Manager said. "Gutom yan (That is the sound of hunger)".

Immediately we contacted Director Davinio Catbagan (BAI) who, in turn, assured the Farm Manager that funds will be released for the continuing upkeep of the pigs. As a result, the pigs were fed that Sunday- before the first batch of killings started.

It is important to note that many of the then-hungry pigs will still be alive, awaiting execution until the projected last day - Friday.

We are in touch with Director Catbagan every day to check on the feeding of the pigs.

Yesterday, he sent PAWS Program Director, Anna Cabrera, this text message:

"Yes, Anna, your concern is not only BAI's official concern but my personal concern as well. I have been in touch with the ground, monitoring the whole day up to late last night to ensure, among others, proper handling and continuous feeding."

The last batch of pigs to be killed would be the biggest ones (sows weighing 110kilos or more), and this is where humane handling becomes more difficult.

PAWS will be there to check if its recommendations have been implemented.

We would like to thank Dr. Catbagan, Dr.Minda Manantan of the NMIS, Dr. Eric Tayag and all the members of his staff from the Department of Health (DOH) and our friends from The Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF), PETA Asia- Pacific and Earth Island Institute Philippines (EII-Phils) for their continuing support.

Please help us be vigilant and pray that the end would be quick and humane for these poor condemned animals.

Thank you.

-The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)

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  1. 7 comments: Responses to “ Pigs are not just food ”

  2. By liza on Mar 5, 2009, 2:22:00 AM

    excellent post sherwin! as usual :))

    my heart breaks reading about those pigs.

    so glad to hear you've been pig/cow-free for half a year na! keep up the good work :D

  3. By Autorenblog / Author´s Blog Thomas von Katzberg on Mar 5, 2009, 7:26:00 AM

    Very nice and informative blog


    Thomas von Katzberg

  4. By Ted Teodoro on Mar 6, 2009, 2:46:00 AM

    First of all, congratulations on your initiation into vegetarianism. I haven’t had any meat in two years, and I am not missing it at all. The dairy products have gone the same way, and my next move would be to rid my life of leather goods. Veganism is just around the corner.

    These lifestyle changes require a lot of attention and discipline, but success hinges on a strong personal conviction that meat is cruel. If I had gotten into it for health reasons, I might have lost my way already. It is a great consolation that no animals died in order to feed me. Also, I ask rhetorically, why eat a dead animal? It’s gross to consume the flesh of another sentient being.

    I, sometimes, wonder where the love of God goes when there is a mass slaughter of animals. We’re the ones who abuse and humiliate animals, and now they have to die for our own good? I tell ya, the sooner this Earth is returned to the animals, the better off this planet will be. Our species is flawed because we have the capability for premeditated cruelty, to derive a conscious pleasure from inflicting pain and suffering on other beings. I pray for that enormous, errant meteor to score a bull’s-eye on our planet and wipe out all humankind. Peace on Earth, Amen.

    I think it was Anna who was the sole animal welfare advocate at the scene. God bless her soul. If she’s not up for sainthood, I’ll make sure she gets nominated. The emotional toll on her and the representatives of the DOH and BAI must be very heavy. As bad as it is, can you imagine that such mass slaughter is just another day at the office for those in the slaughterhouses? I don’t think that we have, or can, fathom accurately how many animals die so that meat can be served at the table.

    Those pigs should have been fed even if they were meant to be slaughtered. Heck, even a condemned mass murderer gets fed, gets to make a last request. Farm animals deserve dignity and humane treatment although they were born with one foot in the grave. It’s just the right thing to do. After I experienced an epiphany, it was easy to switch to and sustain a non-animal diet. Let’s be part of the solution, and not the problem. Animal meat is not acceptable.

  5. By siyerwin on Mar 6, 2009, 8:31:00 AM

    I agree that the most effective motivation for a meat-less diet is the idea of how cruel the trade of animal meat is. I used to miss eating meat as I used to love steaks and pork adobo. But now I don't even miss them. It's pretty nice to think that now I am a true pig and cow friend and that I love them not because they smell good on the grill but because they are truly amazing fellow earthlings.

    If you are trying to remove meat from your diet, another tip is to let everybody know about it. Announce it to the world! It will be another conversation piece among your friends and family and you will never hear the end of it but it will be all worth it. You might also see a little of your influence in them eventually which is a pretty nice side effect.

    When you think about both probabilities, that of all men changing their ways and stopping eating meat altogether, and that of the earth getting hit by a meteor, my money would be on the latter. Anyone up for a bet? :)

    I never bought the excuse of the farm owner that he ran out of funds to feed the condemned pigs. I know someone who operates a pig farm and know for a fact how much money those farms could make. He totally had no regard, only utter disrespect, for the very animals he depended on. It's scary to think what's in store for him in karma department.

    I couldn't believe that Anna went! I once saw a pig get slaughtered and it's not something you cherish. Imagine seeing hundreds getting stunned and shot. I was holding back tears as I was reading her account and as I try imagining what those pigs must have went through; and it felt kind of pathetic that, with all that pain and misery happening, all I could do was shed a tear and move on with my life.

  6. By Ted Teodoro on Mar 6, 2009, 9:18:00 AM

    Actually, there was a near-miss just this last weekend. An asteroid flew past the Earth, so close that it was only 1/5 of the distance between the Earth and the Moon. It was not spotted until a few days before the fly-by. Size, approximately the size of a 10-story building. Distance, approx. 50,000 miles.

  7. By jai on Mar 7, 2009, 11:20:00 AM

    why didnt they just euthanize those pigs and gave them a graceful exit from this world instead of killing them mercilessly?....its sick so sick!!!...i cant stand it!!!...its not their fault that they're sick...they were already sick and yet they still had to suffer more torture....thats so inhumane!!!....

  8. By Beth on Mar 8, 2009, 7:55:00 AM

    The comments here, although very sad, brings a little comfort knowing that at least I am not the only one sobbing to pieces. I feel totally helpless not being able to do more for the animals. I remembered my pig Bebet, I lost her last November from an insect (centipede) bite. I came across Bebet when he was being fattened up by the people that were taking care of him so they could slaughter him for a fiesta celebration. Of course he did not know that. He was always happy to see them judging from the joyful grunts he was making when these people came around. To save him, I bought him from them. I named him Bebet. My mother and father calls me Bebet. When my niece told me that I can't call the pig Bebet cause he is male and I am female, I told her it's okay, he will be my male counterpart. The people that I paid money for Bebet just turned around and got another pig to fatten up for slaughter. I screamed my lungs out. It helped me calm down but it did not help any other pigs for sure.

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Please do not leave your email or contact numbers in the comments. Email me directly at sherwin @ if you have concerns or questions. This blog is increasingly attracting breeders/pet sellers trying to advertise their business through the comments and I don't want that. The blog seems to also be becoming a bulletin board of sorts for people who wish to abandon their pets. allows no way to edit your comments so there I have no other option but to delete comments that I deem inappropriate in this regard. I apologize for the inconvenience. Again, if you have any questions/concerns, better to email me at sherwin @ than to comment here. Thank you very much!

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