Christine Pelland from Southwest Ontario Veterinary Services, Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

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This  animal  welfare  research  is  a  wee  bit off of the beaten path of what we usually cover.  We  often  use  photographs  of  pigs and their husbandry systems as we attempt to  increase  the  transparency  of  pig  production.  We want  to  tell  our  story.  It  is  difficult,  however,  to know  how  the  broader  public  actually  perceives these various depictions of pig production. European  researchers  wanted  to  get  a sense of the impact of various details in photographs that  depicted  pigs  and  their  husbandry  system components.  The  researchers  hypothesized  that  the pig’s  expressions  and  body  languages  as  well  as their  depicted  environment  or  husbandry  systems could   positively   or   negatively   affect   public perception.  Various  photographs  of  pigs  and  their environment   were   evaluated   by   non-farming participants.  The  pictures  varied  with  regards  to facial  expression  and  body  language  of  the  pig. They  produced  photographs  of  a  ‘happy’  versus ‘unhappy’  pig  based  on  facial  expression  and  body language   (Who   knew??).   They   also   looked   at various barn settings with straw based versus slatted floor  pens.  Respondents  were  asked  to  evaluate factors  in  the  photographs  that  affected  the  welfare of the pig.

Interestingly,  the  pen  in  which  the  pig  was  located had  the  largest  influence  on  both  pig  and  pen evaluation.   This   was   followed   by   the   pig’s appearance  and  participants’  beliefs  in  pigs’  mental and  emotional  abilities,  as  well  as  their  connection to  agriculture.  The  welfare  of  both  the  ‘happy’  and the  ‘unhappy’  pig  was  assessed  to  be  higher  in  the straw setting compared to the slatted floor setting in this  study.  Even  the  ‘unhappy  pig’  on  straw  was perceived  more  positively  than  the  ‘happy  pig’  on slatted floor.

Take Home Message

The details of a photograph that is being used to portray  pig  production  can  influence  the  overall perception of welfare.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Submitted  by  Christine  Pelland, DVM

Ref:Busch  G,  Gauly  S,  von  Meyer-Höfer  M,  Spiller A2.Does   picture   background   matter?   People’s evaluation  of  pigs  in  different  farm  settings.  PLoS One.   2019   Feb   12;14(2):e0211256.   doi:   10.1371/journal.pone.0211256. eCollection 2019

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