The large, sensitive snouts of pigs are perfectly adapted for rooting – an important and enjoyable behaviour that is denied to pigs on the vast majority of farms today © Viva!
Pigs have poor eye sight, but acute senses of touch, taste and smell. They can hear in the ultrasound range (32). They can smell a human up to a quarter of a mile away. A pig’s snout is also highly sensitive. It is an organ that is highly developed for olfaction, carrying, pushing, rooting and social interactions (32). Pigs can smell roots and tubers that are deep underground—a unique skill that has been exploited since the ancient Babylonian period to find truffles, a subterranean fungus that grows around the roots of oak trees and is highly prized by gourmet chefs.
The desire to root is so strong, intensively farmed pigs persist in nosing the concrete floors. Factory farmed pigs are provided with concentrated feed and spend only a short time eating. They have no opportunity to root around and this is a serious issue, causing frustration and acute chronic boredom for pigs. Sadly, even outdoor pigs are often denied the pleasure of rooting – nose rings being placed through the snout to cause pain when the animal tries to root. Nose ringing is viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSIEK5iWfb4
Factory farming has not altered a pig’s ability to use tactile information – the highest density of tactile receptors being found in a pig’s snout. The phenomenal boredom caused by indoor farming is pitiful. But not only that. Olfaction is the pig’s keenest sense. The pig’s sense of smell is not limited to finding food, but is used heavily in the social domain including understanding social identity, sexual state, and the emotional state of other pigs (32). Imagine then an animal confined inside a filthy, crammed factory farm such as those that Viva! has repeatedly filmed inside, and the assault on the animals’ acute sense of smell.
It is difficult for us to imagine the effect that imprisonment has on young animals who, in the wild, would spend so much time playing, socialising, rooting, running, eating, investigating, wandering and engaging in the natural world.