CARNEVALE’ shows animals’ responses to unique objects

Published Wednesday, 6th June 2018 in Staff news

The art of pig playtime

Pig KerPlunk and a popcorn-dispensing piñata are among a collection of unique objects created for an event at the pig research unit in Easter Howgate 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 (ECA) 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.”    

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.”

The ten-minute film featuring the pigs interacting with their play objects was filmed by Brian Mather, Senior e-Learning Developer at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.  The film can be viewed in the reception area of the Roslin Institute until the end of June or to view a shorter edit of the film here: 

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