The art of pig playtime

Published Tuesday, 5th June 2018 in Research news

The art of pig playtime
A Popcorn Piñata was one of the objects created by artists Andrea Roe and Cath Keay. Picture: Norrie Russell/Roslin Institute

Pig KerPlunk and a popcorn-dispensing piñata are among a collection of unique objects created for an event at a Scotland’s Rural College research farm which explored how pigs like to play.

A ten-minute film of the pigs interacting with the play objects is now on exhibition at The Roslin Institute.

Edinburgh College of Art lecturer Andrea Roe used a Leverhulme Trust artist-in-residence award to work with SRUC animal behaviour specialists. The project was one part of her work during the residency and revealed pigs’ great enthusiasm for investigative play.

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow Cath Keay, also from ECA, joined Andrea at the farm. Over the course of a week, the artists created eight sculptural objects that they hoped would appeal to both humans and pigs. They chose materials that would invite the pigs to play and that would encourage the animals to smell, tear apart and eat the objects, all of which were designed around a carnival theme. Other objects included ‘Fruit Machine’, ‘Apple Barrel’ and ‘Sweep Sensation’.

The idea for the project drew on the work of Professor Alistair Lawrence, Chair of Animal Behaviour & Welfare at SRUC and The Roslin Institute. Prof Lawrence’s group is interested in how enrichments encouraging ‘positive’ behaviour, such as play, can contribute to welfare in farmed animals.

Prof Lawrence said: “The inclusion of animal-based welfare measures such as the ability to move freely and a positive human-animal relationship among the proposed guiding principles for World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) animal welfare standards reflects that positive welfare is now an active topic of discussion on the world stage.”    

To promote the work, a newspaper publication called CARNEVALE, was produced with contributions from Prof Lawrence, SRUC scientist Prof Françoise Wemelsfelder and creative writer Tessa Berring. The paper includes a QR code which links to a video featuring the pigs interacting with their play objects. The pigs were filmed by Brian Mather, Senior e-Learning Developer at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

Andrea said: “Throughout the process of designing and making the objects we thought about what matters to pigs and carefully crafted objects that they could interact with and which would fit their body proportions.”

Visitors to the Roslin Institute can view the video and the newspaper in the reception area until the end of June.

To view a short edit of the film view below:

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