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2 the Outdoors: The intelligence of pigs

Though burdened with a historically bad reputation, pigs have some remarkable qualities.

NEWFANE, N.Y. — Asha's Farm Sanctuary in Newfane has been caring for abused and neglected farm animals for nearly a decade. Founder Tracy Murphy's mission was motivated by compassion for the plight of these often forgotten animals.

"Because there really wasn't any other sanctuary in this vicinity that was doing what we were doing, educating about the cruelty on animal agriculture, and advocating for a compassionate vegan lifestyle," Murphy said.

Several of the residents at the sanctuary are Yorkshire Cross Pigs. They are large, friendly, and Murphy says they are very misunderstood, especially in regard to their hygiene. 

"I think it's a lack of education," Murphy said. "People think that pigs are dirty, but they're not, they actually will not even defecate or urinate in their own barn, they're extremely clean, and as far as having mud on them, they're actually very smart to roll in mud because what that does is protect their sensitive skin from the sun."

Credit: Tracy Murphy
Education is critical at the sanctuary.

Pigs in general are extremely smart, among the most intelligent in the animal kingdom. 

"They're rated at the fourth most intelligent animals," Murphy said. "You know Chimpanzees are one, Dolphins are probably three, so they're extremely intelligent and also, actually more intelligent than a 3-year-old child in their mental ability, and not many people realize that."

Credit: Terry Belke
The pigs must demonstrate reason in figuring out how to get food from their toys.

They have a playful side as well, they love to play with their food filled toys, but that's also an indicator of their ability to reason. 

"They can figure things out, for example, we had them playing with toys," Murphy said. "They didn't know what to do with that toy right away, they had to use their mental ability to figure it out if they roll that toy, that a little treat is going to come out, so we can gauge it by that."

A main part of the sanctuary's goal is education, in hope that this knowledge will lead to a change in society's approach to diet. 

"If anybody comes here and they visit with the animals, they'll see how unique they are, how they all have their own individual personalities, and their thinking will change from that. People make compassionate choices, and then once they connect with the animal, they decide they won't eat them anymore. "

If you'd like to learn more about Asha's Farm Sanctuary, click here.

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