Pigs are sensitive to harmonious melodies – Sciences et Avenir

SENSITIVITY. Like humans, pigs have very different reactions depending on whether they hear discordant or harmonious music. This surprising ability is an additional faculty in an animal that does not lack it. “Pigs are able to tell the difference between a familiar man and a stranger, and between objects based on visual, auditory and olfactory cues. In addition, they have an auditory sensitivity similar to primates because they are able to distinguish melodies of different frequencies. write the authors in a report of their experiment carried out at the experimental farm of the University of Antioquia (Colombia) and which has just been published Scientific Report.

The team made up of researchers from the University of Calgary (Canada) and Antioquia benefited from the musical talents of Berardo de Jesus Rodriguez, a veterinarian also a composer who provided 16 pieces, some harmonious “like a pop hit”, the others dissonant. These three to five minute pieces were alternately submitted to six groups of ten to twelve young pigs with three minute breaks between each piece. The reactions of the animals were filmed and studied using an approach called “quantitative behavioral assessment” (QBA, quantitative behavioral assessment) which consists of recognizing about twenty emotional parameters. Positive behaviors include active, fearless, calm, happy, playful, sociable, curious and tail wagging attitudes. anxiety, aggression, restlessness are among the negative attitudes. Unambiguously, the researchers found radically different attitudes on the ten groups depending on whether the animals listened to harmonious or dissonant sounds. Music softens morals even for pigs .

The difficult evaluation of animal emotions

SUBJECTIVITY. The study is interesting because there are few on this subjectcomments Céline Tallet, researcher at the UMR “Physiology, environment and genetics for animals and breeding systems” (PEGASE, INRAE ​​Rennes). However, many breeders play music in their buildings because they observe empirically that their pigs feel better”. The use of the QBA may suggest that observers demonstrate a certain subjectivity in the interpretation of behavior. Thereby, a Chinese study from December 2020 carefully avoids the term emotion to characterize a musical influence on the pigs. The experiment involved subjecting 144 piglets separated into three groups to slow or fast music and no sound. The only criteria of play and tail wagging were retained. And a clear difference was found for pigs listening to music. “The QBA is however a robust method applied almost everywhere in the world and which is recognized by ethology”. defends Céline Tallet.

Chance of scientific news, the same review Scientific Report published on March 7, 2022 joint work by INRAE, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (Switzerland) and the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) on the translation of pig vocalizations. “The idea is to pool all the recordings of the cries of the pigs and their meaning observed by the scientists to constitute an important database which allows, thanks to the use of artificial intelligence, to immediately link a cry to a message. , summarizes Céline Tallet, co-author of the article.

Better understand the animal to improve its well-being

7400 cries, grunts, squeals emitted by 411 pigs in different conditions, from birth to the slaughterhouse, passing through the different stages of their life and according to the breeding conditions (above ground or on straw) were collected . The bioacousticians and ethologists involved in this work carried out a detailed analysis of the acoustic structure of the vocalizations and associated them with the context in which they were emitted. These can be positive emotions (breastfeeding, reunion with congeners) or negative (fights, isolation). Artificial intelligence has enabled over 90% accuracy in vocalization recognition and interpretation.

Work on music and on vocalizations has one and the same goal: animal welfare. The Colombian and Canadian researchers hope that their work will lead to the creation of music specially intended for the hearing of pigs which would be played in livestock buildings. “ The immediate translation of a vocalization must allow the breeder to understand what the animal is feeling and to respond immediately to its need or its suffering”. adds Céline Tallet. An animal with so many talents deserves the concern of humans for its well-being throughout its short life.

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Pigs are sensitive to harmonious melodies – Sciences et Avenir


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