The Colin McEnroe Show
10:01 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Paying Homage to Pigs!

A pig in two forms at Sweet Acre Farm in Hampton.
Credit Catie Talarski / WNPR

Behold! The unique dilemma of the pig: There is nothing that smart that tastes that good. Is it true they're as smart as dogs? Why do some religions require people abstain from eating pork? What's it like raising pigs, and what parts of the pig are overlooked when it comes to eating them?

For some reason, most of the research into pig cognition is don't in the United Kingdom, not here. It seems tied into the British animal welfare movement. They don't mind eating animals, but they want them treated well. So they want to know how their minds work and what they like.

One of the exceptions was the late Stanley Curtis, a professor of animal sciences at Penn State. Curtis conducted a famous experiment in which he first let pigs -- I think their names where Hamlet and Omelet -- learn to move a joystick with their snouts. Pigs get very good at that, very fast. Their snout-eye coordination is pretty amazing. Then Curtis set up a game in which Hamlet could watch a video screen and use the joystick to move a cursor to a small blue rectangle. Then he made the game harder.

We'll tell you the results on today's show, featuring scientists, pig farmers, a pot-bellied pig named Rosie, and big thinkers on how these animals operate.

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