Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » Livestock Behavior Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #336992

Title: Pigs as laboratory animals

item Marchant, Jeremy
item HERSKIN, METTE - Aarhus University

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/13/2017
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The pig is increasingly popular as a laboratory animal either as the target species in its own right or as a model for humans in biomedical science. As an intelligent, social animal it has a complex behavioral repertoire reminiscent of its ancestor, the wild boar. Within a laboratory setting, the pig may be the subject to a variety of invasive and non-invasive experimental procedures which may have short- and/or long-term impacts on its welfare. Ordinarily, pigs kept as laboratory animals will come under regulations or legislation governing use as lab animals rather than farm animals and be subject to increased individual monitoring as a result, even though there may be a lack of species-specific protocols to assess the welfare of laboratory pigs. A major issue with laboratory animals is pain and its management. Again, there is a lack of validated methodology to monitor and document pain in the laboratory pig, although there are some recommendations available regarding the use of NSAIDs as analgesics. Within a laboratory setting, pigs may be subject to housing that is sub-optimal in terms of their needs, with the emphasis on hygiene and needs of the caretaker. Environments may be barren and uncomfortable, and the pig may be socially isolated. However, the environment can be modified to improve the pig’s welfare, without forfeiting human requirements. Feed can be supplied in a way that reduces hunger, reduces excessive weight gain and reduces aggression where pigs are group-housed. Laboratory pigs are subject to more frequent human interaction than farm pigs and there is the opportunity for the human to improve the pig’s welfare by avoiding negative handling and by implementing positive reinforcement techniques to train pigs to undergo aspects of experimental procedures, thereby minimizing stress. At present, there is little scientific literature on laboratory pig welfare and although there is relevant information that can be transferred from pigs kept as farm animals, more research is needed to fill gaps in the knowledge and validate measures of welfare for application in laboratory settings.