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A study says that grunts express the feelings of pigs - 16/04/2022 - Science

A study says that grunts express the feelings of pigs – 16/04/2022 – Science

Scientists from nine countries have collaborated to try to solve a strange question: Is it possible to tell what pigs feel based on their grunts alone?

There has been a lot of research done separately on this topic, and this time the scientists’ idea was to standardize the databases, with a total of 7,414 grunts produced by 411 pigs in 19 different situations, in order to have a more robust analysis. The project involves specialists from Denmark, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, France, Norway and the USA.

Records refer to various situations, from birth to death. The pluses include, for example, breastfeeding and family reunification after a while. Emotionally negative situations include, for example, separation from the mother, disagreements between animals and castration.

The grunts associated with positive situations are usually shorter, and sound waves have lower amplitude variation. Longer ones, common in negative situations, fluctuate a lot and are usually longer. search It was published last March in the journal Scientific Reports.

Analysis of this volume was only possible because scientists developed a computer program that was able to “listen” to animals and automatically split the information into various parameters of interest, such as vocalization duration, frequency and sound waveform.

It was possible, through machine learning, to correctly classify 92% of grunts as positive or negative. More: The algorithm correctly identified 84% of the contexts in which the sounds were produced.

Building on this non-invasive method for monitoring animal welfare, scientists are now looking for partners to develop a commercial tool that could be made available to breeders around the world.

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In the case of cow animals, such as chickens, cattle and pigs, there are ethical, social and economic reasons why breeders should care about the welfare of the animals.

“Every day researchers are discovering new cognitive abilities in these animals. They are sentient beings – something already recognized by many countries – and if we want to use them, it is our responsibility to ensure that they have the best possible life,” says the a sheet Elodie Mandel-Briefer, a researcher at the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the study.

“This not only means making sure that they are physically healthy, it also means that they are mentally healthy, that they have much more positive emotions than negative ones, and that they enjoy a normal life as much as possible.”

The scientist explains that the emotions that animals feel are encoded by ancestral brain regions that are shared by all vertebrates, be it a fish or a chimpanzee, and are essential for life in the wild, where they react when finding food. Or predators, for example.

“It is a fact that all vertebrates, at least, feel emotions. Given the structure of the brain, it is very likely that non-human animals are aware of their feelings, but we cannot quantify the degree of these feelings,” says Mandel-Bover.

“In any case, given the study of their cognitive abilities (long-term memory, the ability of their emotions to influence other individuals, the ability to understand human gestures and vocal expressions), it is clear that the distance between us and them is getting closer every day. The distance between us and them is getting closer every day, which ensures that we must take care of them well if we want to use them.”

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Even the emotions of invertebrates such as insects, mollusks and crustaceans have already been studied. In a recent analysis, Published in the magazine ScienceFrans de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University (USA) and Christine Andrews, an animal brain researcher at York University (Canada), dissected this issue.

There is doubt about the degree to which non-vertebrate animals are aware of their own sensations and feelings. Assuming an absence of conscience, this would, from a moral standpoint, excuse people from having to care about the welfare of these animals, the authors explain.

Another example is the relationship between cows and calves. When they see their dogs in pain, mothers have a reaction that goes beyond caring about avoiding their pain. De Wall and Andrews argue that this kind of concern must be taken into account when making decisions about good practices in livestock and agriculture.

They wrote, “While we are used to thinking about how our actions affect other humans, realizing the breadth of animal consciousness also requires us to consider our influence on other species. In this way, animal consciousness will further complicate this already morally complex world.” .