The question is simple: If you knew that pigs were as smart (or possibly even smarter) than dogs, cats, and the average 3-year-old child, would you still eat them?
Whether or not that knowledge would change your eating habits, animal-welfare advocates are launching a campaign to raise awareness about farm-animal intelligence. They hope that by making people realize some farm animals -- mainly pigs -- are capable of things like learning their names, tricks, and creating emotional bonds with their special friends, people will think twice about eating them. Or at least about how they're treated before we eat them.
Their campaign, called "The Someone Project" is being led by The Farm Sanctuary, an animal-protection and vegan-advocacy organization.
"What it boils down to is people don't know farm animals the way they know dogs or cats," Bruce Friedrich of the organization told the AP. "We're a nation of animal lovers, and yet the animals we encounter most frequently are the animals we pay people to kill so we can eat them."
Lori Marino -- a lecturer in psychology at Emory University who specializes in brain-behavior relationships, the evolution of intelligence, and self-awareness in other species -- will lead the research portion of the project by reviewing the current scientific literature on the subject, identifying areas that warrant more research, and compiling reports of her findings to be distributed worldwide. She hopes to be able to re-educate people about the sophistication of the animals.
Still having trouble wrapping your mind around the idea that pigs are as mentally adept as your snugly little pup?
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Well, according to the People of the Ethical Treatment of Animals website, "Pigs are known to dream, recognize their own names, learn "tricks" like sitting for a treat, and lead social lives of a complexity previously observed only in primates." And according to Farm Sanctuary, chickens are capable of navigating mazes and anticipating the future, while sheep can remember the faces of humans and other sheep for more than two years.
On the other side of things, major associations representing chicken and pork producers contend that farmers have already made great strides in improving farm animal conditions. They say that consumers should be allowed to choose their food based on their dietary preferences and nutritional needs. And that a meat-free society just doesn't make sense.
Besides, could we really give up bacon?