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December 19, 2012

Kind News Feature: The Real Deal About Pigs

Kind News magazine for kids

  • Did you know? Pigs roll in mud to cool off and protect their skin. Matt Prescott/The HSUS

  • Pigs are social animals. They communicate and cooperate with each other. Julie Busch Branaman/for The HSUS

  • Pigs "talk" by grunting, squealing, and growling, and piglets can recognize their mom's voice. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

What do you know about pigs? They are often thought of as dirty animals. Not true! Pigs are actually very clean and intelligent—probably even smarter than dogs!

One of the reasons pigs may get a bad rap is from their habit of rolling in mud. But this behavior isn’t about getting dirty—it’s about cooling off. Pigs don’t have sweat glands, so wallowing in mud helps to keep them cool. The mud also protects their skin from biting bugs and sunburn.

Humans began raising pigs about 10,000 years ago in Europe and Asia. Now they are raised all over the world. Some live on farms where they are free to roam. Others are raised in huge concrete or steel buildings that house large numbers of animals. This practice is called intensive confinement or factory farming.

Down on the farm

Pigs are social animals. On free-range farms, they can be seen eagerly greeting each other by touching snouts. They communicate using more than 20 different sounds like grunts, squeals, and growls. Piglets can recognize their mom’s voice from all others. The youngsters can also tell what kind of mood mom’s in! Piglets begin to walk a few minutes after birth. Within two weeks, they are chasing and playing with other piglets.

Wild and free-range pigs spend much of their day rooting around for food. Their extremely good sense of smell allows them to sniff out roots and tubers deep underground.

Sadly, pigs raised in factory farms are not able to perform natural behaviors.

Watch "A Pig's Tail" to learn more

Like the characters they play in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, voice actors James Arnold Taylor (as Obi Wan Kenobi) and Catherine Taber (as Padmé Amidala) use their "force" for good. That’s why they generously donated their time and talents to create A Pig’s Tail, an animated film about life on a factory farm.

"It is such a beautiful piece...It’s an honor to be involved," says Taber. The actress plays Ginger, a spunky piglet determined to find a better life for all the pigs in the factory. "Ginger is a magical little character," she says. "I think she can touch people’s hearts."

Taylor voices the role of factory worker Tim. "It’s always fun, as someone who does voices in a cartoon, to make animals talk," he says. In this film, "the animals are talking...and we’re seeing that they have emotions and feelings.

"We don’t fully understand what animals are thinking," Taylor continues. "But we have a responsibility to do things the right way...humanely."

So, will Ginger touch Tim’s heart? You’ll have to watch the film to find out!

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