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In Context #10 (Fall, 2003, pp. 7-8); copyright 2003 by The Nature Institute

Assessing a Pig's Life

Heather Thoma


A friend recently showed me an article in the Ontario Farmer about a survey of American consumers. The survey found that "there has not been an increase in the number of consumers abandoning pork because of animal welfare concerns"—this despite the fact that most pigs are raised in extremely un-piglike, factory-style environments. The article went on to note that "quality and taste are more important to consumers than the process of meat production."

But perhaps this is because sausage is generally thought of as a food product, not as a breathing, scampering, nosy pig whose life led to the ultimate end of being packaged for our breakfast. Things might be different if consumers had a vivid a sense of the animal and the actual conditions of its "production and harvesting." But is there any reasonably objective way to assess the quality of the animal's life? Françoise Wemelsfelder thinks there is, and she has devoted several years to developing appropriate methods of assessment.

A student of wildlife biology in the 1980s, Wemelsfelder became interested