when the vocalizations speak of pigs

From birth to the slaughterhouse

Project, the results of which were published in early March 2022, and which aims to develop a system for recognizing the vocalizations of pigs and therefore the emotions they convey. Objective: Enable breeders to adapt their practices and interventions to ensure farm animal welfare. The three research institutes worked on their own and had already recorded a certain number of elements. “Bundling our research made it possible to expand the database but also to identify unrecorded situations: specific cognitive situations, game sequences and recordings in slaughterhouses. In total, we collected records of 411 pigs reared on slatted floors and straw on experimental farms affiliated with our universities in 19 different settings from birth to slaughterhouse. »

Céline Tallet, ethologist, specialist in pig behavior.

CT/Inrae

And what comes out of it? No less than 7,400 vocalizations. cut out. analyzed. “The captured animals growl, scream, howl, squeak, and sometimes even emit what might sound like barking,” the scientist continues. “A variety of vocalizations recorded and monitored by teams of specialized ethologists. The identification of the sounds was then performed by computer tools. And what do the little and big pigs say? High-frequency vocalizations, i.e., tending to be higher in pitch, express an emotion with a negative value “in most situations”. “But it’s not systematic. Conversely, low frequencies are associated with exploration and emotion, which is all the more positive when the tone is short and the amplitude of the tone varies little. If the sound is very pure in high frequency, it mostly expresses a discomfort or a situation that disturbs the animal. »

A tool for breeders

This scientific basis fed the artificial intelligence, which proved its ability to recognize not only the emotional value expressed by the vocalizations with an accuracy of 91%, but also the situation in which they were made (accuracy of 82%). When a new noise is recorded, it is automatically compared with the ones integrated in the database and thus qualified. It now remains to convert this process into a tool accessible to breeders and able to alert them in real time to situations that require immediate intervention in their animals. “The fact is that the Soundwel project is finished and the next step would have to be funded”, emphasizes Céline Tallet, quite optimistic about the rest of the story… “Yes, because since the publication of our results on the 14th we have proposals of about received fifteen companies that want to develop the tool for growers and we even have a proposal from a funder. “Meanwhile, the young behavioral scientist is working on another project with a Breton company and the Technical Institute of Pigs: “We are still counting on vocalizations and the possibility of identifying those related to the screams that a pig bites its tail. of another. The idea would be to intervene at this point, thus avoiding the current practice of systematically cutting off the tails of day-old pigs. »

411 animals were recorded in different situations from birth to slaughter.
411 animals were recorded in different situations from birth to slaughter.

inrae

Finally, it should be noted that other studies are being carried out to identify the emotions of animals less expressive than pigs and to make progress in animal welfare and practices aimed at respecting it in the best possible way. “Research is being carried out on poultry, even if the range of sound variations seems weak to the human ear, artificial intelligence gives us all the skills to recognize emotions. »

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