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Pigs in pain - causes, mechanisms, and possibilities for future development

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Pierpaolo Di Giminiani


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Despite a long history of debate about negative affective states in animals, it was only in the last decades of the 20th century that the state of pain was mentioned in definitions of animal welfare, included in veterinary education, and became a target of scientific interest. Pain is a perceptional phenomenon built from information gathered by specialized sensory receptors for tissue damage and integrated into a discrete experience with a negative emotional valence in the brain. Based on knowledge about porcine neuroanatomy, physiology, and studies focusing on pig behavior and pathology, we review evidence for causes of pain in pigs, underlying biological mechanisms, as well as the possibility to quantify different types of indicators of pain states relevant to the welfare of the animals under production conditions. The presentation will primarily focus on pigs because of the dual purpose of this species as a meat producing as well as research animal species (the latter driven by the anatomical and physiological homologies with humans), making pigs unique among livestock. We will present methodologies and results from current research projects across Europe and North America targeting typical industry-related injuries (e.g., tail docking, lameness, and shoulder lesions) and aiming to understand the welfare consequences for the pigs. Throughout the talk, the emphasis will be put on future opportunities to link research outcomes with industry initiatives toward the improvement of animal welfare and production. In addition, possible future research efforts to help face current methodological limitations and favor a more comprehensive evaluation of animal pain as an overall experience will be discussed. This seeks to facilitate common future targeted research and enable us to overcome the paradoxical low level of knowledge about porcine pain and its alleviation under production conditions.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Herskin M, Di Giminiani P

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: American Society of Animal Science Midwestern Section Meeting

Year of Conference: 2017

Print publication date: 01/03/2017

Acceptance date: 13/03/2017

ISSN: 0021-8812

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.2527/asasmw.2017.003

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

Series Title: Journal of Animal Science

ISBN: 15253163