Researchers decipher pig welfare through grunts and grunts

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Pigs express positive feelings through short growls.

European researchers have developed a way to decode the feelings of pigs through their growls, squeaks and squeaks as part of a project to improve animal welfare.

Biologists studied more than 7,000 recordings from 411 pigs, from brief squeals of satisfaction at feeding time to desperate cries at slaughter, before sorting them into 19 different categories.

“We show that it is possible to understand the emotions of pigs based on their vocalizations,” project leader Elodie Briefer, a lecturer at the University of Copenhagen, told AFP.

The project, split between Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, France and the Czech Republic and published in the journal Scientific reportsoffers a new way to improve animal welfare by laying the foundations for a tool capable of categorizing an emotion based on the noise produced, according to the researcher.

“We also run a machine learning algorithm…which produces a spectrogram and then it is trained to recognize negative and positive contexts.”

Once developed, the new tool would allow farmers, who today mostly can only check the physical well-being of animals, to monitor their mental health.

The researcher said if the negative cries increased, the farmer would be alerted that something was wrong and could check.

The Scandinavian country is home to 13.2 million pigs, making it the leader in Europe with more than two per capita, and for the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, the implications of the study are promising.

“This concept… could potentially be one useful tool among others in the work of monitoring the health and welfare of pigs,” said council spokesperson Trine Vig.

“They are very vocal”

According to Briefer, they achieved “92% accuracy in classifying the valence…(or) whether the call is negative or positive, and 82% accuracy in classifying the actual context in which the sounds were produced.”

According to the results, positive feelings are expressed by short grunts, while negative feelings are most often expressed by longer sounds.

But why focus on the pig rather than a cow or a rabbit?

For the study authors, the pig, known for its wide range of squeaks and noises, was the perfect match.

“They are very vocal, which makes them easier to study,” the researcher said.

“They produce vocalizations all the time, even in a low intensity situation they would still vocalize.”


Decoding Pig Emotions with a Machine Learning Algorithm


More information:

Elodie F. Briefer et al, Classification of pig cries produced from birth to slaughter according to their emotional valence and the production context, Scientific reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-07174-8

© 2022 AFP

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Researchers decode pig welfare through growls and growls (2022, April 16)
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