Study: Translating pig grunts into emotions

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We are now able to decode pigs’ emotions – one step forward in animal welfare


calendar icon 18 September 2023

clock iconUsing tens of thousands of acoustic recordings gathered through the lives of pigs, from their births to deaths, a global team of researchers may be the first on earth to translate pig grunts into actual emotions across a prolonged amount of conditions and life stages. The investigation is led because of the University of Copenhagen, the ETH Zurich while the France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE), and that can be employed to improve animal welfare in the foreseeable future.

Is a pig grunt worth a lot of words? Perhaps so. Inside a new study, a global team of researchers from Denmark, Switzerland, France, Germany, Norway while the Czech Republic have translated pig grunts into emotions.

The findings have already been published today in Scientific Reports. Using a lot more than 7000 audio recordings of pigs, the researchers designed an algorithm that will decode whether a person pig is experiencing an optimistic emotion (‘happy’ or ‘excited’), a bad one (‘scared’ or ‘stressed’) or someplace in between. The recordings were collected inside a number of situations encountered by commercial pigs, both negative and positive, from the time they have been born until their deaths.

“With this research, we demonstrate that animal sounds provide great understanding of their emotions. We also prove that the algorithm enables you to decode and comprehend the emotions of pigs, which can be a significant step towards improved animal welfare for livestock,” says Associate Professor Elodie Briefer regarding the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Biology in the University of Copenhagen, who co-led the research.

Short grunts are ‘happy’ grunts

The researchers recorded pig sounds both in commercial and experimental scenarios, which on the basis of the behavior regarding the pigs, are generally of a negative and positive emotion. Positive situations included, as an example, those when piglets suckle from their mothers or if they are united along with their family after being separated. The emotionally negative situations included, and others, separation, fights between piglets, castration and slaughter.

In experimental stables, the researchers also created various mock scenarios when it comes to pigs, built to evoke more nuanced emotions in the exact middle of the spectrum. These included an arena with toys or food as well as a corresponding arena with no stimuli. The researchers also placed new and unfamiliar objects when you look at the arena when it comes to pigs to have interaction with. On the way, the pigs’ calls, behavior and heart rates were monitored and recorded whenever possible.

The researchers then analyzed the greater amount of than 7,000 audio recordings to see if there clearly was a pattern when you look at the sounds as being a purpose of the emotions, and in case they are able to discern the positive situations and emotions through the negative ones.

As already revealed in previous research, the researchers collected more high-frequency calls (such as for example screams and squeals) in negative situations. At precisely the same time, low-frequency calls (such as for example barks and grunts) occurred in both situations where in actuality the pigs experienced positive or negative emotions.The situations between your extremes were particularly interesting. Having an much more thorough analysis regarding the sound files, the researchers uncovered a new pattern that revealed what the pigs experienced in a few situations in even more detail.

“There are unmistakeable variations in pig calls whenever we glance at negative and positive situations. Into the positive situations, the calls are far shorter, with minor fluctuations in amplitude. Grunts, more specifically, begin high and gradually come down in frequency. By training an algorithm to acknowledge these sounds, we could classify 92% regarding the calls towards the correct emotion,” explains Briefer.

The researchers recorded pig sounds both in commercial and experimental scenarios, which on the basis of the behavior regarding the pigs, are generally of a negative and positive emotion. Positive situations included, as an example huddling with littermates. Photo: Elodie Briefer.

Farmers can monitor animal emotions

The study of animal emotions is just a relatively new field that features come about throughout the last twenty years. Today, it really is widely accepted that the psychological state of livestock is essential for his or her overall well-being. Nevertheless, today’s animal welfare makes a speciality of the physical health of livestock. Indeed, several systems exist that will automatically monitor an animal’s physical health for the farmer.

“We have trained the algorithm to decode pig grunts. Now, we are in need of an individual who desires to develop the algorithm into an app that farmers may use to enhance the welfare of these animals,” says Briefer.

She adds that, with sufficient data to coach the algorithm, the strategy is also familiar with better comprehend the emotions of other mammals.



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