Tuesday, March 07, 2006


NewScientist this week reports on the squeals that piglets make when their testicles are chopped off. The reference is:

Puppe B, Schon PC, Tuchscherer A, Manteuffel G, 'Castration-induced vocalisation in domestic piglets, Sus scrofa: Complex and specific alterations of the vocal quality', Applied Animal Behavior Science, 2005, 95 (1-2), 67-78.

The conclusion:

'The observed changes of acoustical parameters during the surgical period can be interpreted as vocal indicators for experienced pain and suffering'.

For $30US you can read the whole article here. Or you need not read it but appreciate the creativity and neutrality of the study's title. Or its curiousity value. Or you can experience outrage.


lesleym said...

Hi Harry
OK, as the ex-farmer I feel qualified to comment. We herded goats. Because we worked with animals of known genetic potential, it was necessary to remove the possibility of mismating by castrating all excess males. Our kids were mostly hand-reared by us and they were highly attached to whoever came with the feeding-bottle! Males were castrated at about 2-4 weeks. When done surgically, they evinced pain for a maximum of about 2 minutes, but as the cut surfaces dried, they showed little evidence of pain. We always did the procedure just before a meal, so they got a good feed and a cuddle to take their minds off things, and their attitude towards us (who had produced the pain) did not change one bit afterwards.
We also used the rubberband type, particularly if the kids were older (due to rain when they were the right age for the first-mentioned operation.) This I was always slightly uncomfortable about - it could be some hours before the lack of blood circulation was sufficient to deaden the nerve endings properly, and one would see a kid walking around very gingerly for a while >:-0
It's all very well to say don't use these methods of husbandry, however, the alternative is to remove nearly all males at birth. The return from that procedure would not begin to cover the cost of feeding and housing the mother for the five months of gestation. At least we could recoup some of that cost by growing the kids to marketable age.
(IVF and AI to produce females only is prohibitively expensive for herd animals.)
More than you ever wanted to know about farming, I am sure!

lesleym said...

I didn't address the language of the article, did I?
Well, I'm not sure what you want to be outraged about - academic journals demand the reproducability of the scientific method. It is not possible to be sure that emotional reactions will be the same on each and every occasion.
I can't spend $30 to find out whether the authors came up witth any ideas to minimise pain and suffering in farm animals (although I sometimes wonder at the notion of calling an intensively reared pig a farm animal.)

hc said...

Interesting comments. I guess I suffer from the normal urban meat-eater hypocrisy in attitudes to farm animals. I am happy to eat them but don't like seeing thyem killed or harmed. I thought the article I referred too was pretty silly because the pain seemed to me (outch!) obvious. But I can see it might be looking to minimidse harm etc.

I am interested in animal liberation though not a supporter. Animals have rights but a lower order of rights than humans. Thus in Peter Singer's terms I am a Speciesist.