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