Pigs are physiologically similar to humans in many respects and they have advanced cognitive abilities, which cause them to be perceived as “intelligent.” They also have unique personalities.
Pigs like to enjoy themselves. They eat with gusto and they delight in wallowing in the mud.
But I suppose some would argue that I’m guilty of anthropomorphizing their behavior. They’re just animals, some might respond, without emotions (those being uniquely human). They coat themselves in mud simply to keep their bodies cool and they’ve evolved to eat the way they do because it improves their chances of surviving and reproducing. They don’t just “have fun.” Like all nonhuman animals they are, as Rene Descartes famously put it, merely “machines” and “automata.” As Nicholas Malebranch wrote, “They eat without pleasure, cry without pain, grow without knowing it; they desire nothing, fear nothing, know nothing.”
Proponents of this Cartesian view of animals (and there are many of them, whether they realize it or not), therefore see farm animals as mere machines, which should be converted into human food as cheaply, efficiently and quickly as possible. The factory farm model, which now supplies the vast majority of the meat and eggs our society consumes, is predicated upon these kinds of beliefs.
A couple of days I ago I threw a bale of hay into the stall where our pigs sleep, intending to go in later and spread it around as bedding for them. But before I could go in to do that, a pig party broke out.
These photos don’t do it justice. I regret not having made a video.
The pigs treated the bale like a toy, rolling it around, biting and shaking it and flopping down on it. They were playing. I can’t think of any better way to describe it. And I can’t imagine that frolicking this way is actually the behavior of an emotionless machine.
The bottom line as far as I’m concerned is that pigs like to play. I’m glad our pigs live on a place where they’re able to do that.