When the pig codes were being reviewed and updated by the National Farm Animal Care Council, we urged the industry to adopt a requirement for pen enrichment in multiple areas: social, so the pigs could interact and play with one another; nutritional, so pigs could explore and chew on straw or hay to give them a feeling of fullness (rather than the chronic hunger many experience); and sensory, so pigs were provided with items like toys they could explore and manipulate. We also urged that the requirements follow those already in existence in Europe which mandate that enrichments be swapped out for new items every few months as pigs are extremely inquisitive and quickly become bored.
Any hope we had of the new requirements actually being followed in the spirit of their intention were crushed when we read pig industry researcher Dr. Jennifer Brown advising pig producers on how to meet the new requirements. According to Dr. Brown: “Even those [pigs] in stalls are side to side contact so that would be considered a form of social enrichment”. She also claims that sensory enrichment can be met by simply turning on a radio, and that while “[m]ost people are thinking of objects that are provided in the pens but there’s a lot of other different options. Even walking the pens can be considered a form of enrichment because you’re providing pigs with additional stimulation.”
This is one of the many problems with “outcome-based” objectives. It becomes a race to the bottom on exactly how those objectives will be met. Who needs straw and objects the pigs can manipulate when stalls count as social enrichment and turning on a radio fulfills sensory enrichment?