Someone Project: Animal Sentience & Emotions

The Someone Project: A Fascinating World of Animal Intelligence and Emotions

Societies often consider farmed animals as objects: unintelligent, non-feeling, and unworthy of compassion. This thought process makes seeing these beings as simply a source of food or other commodities more psychologically palatable. However, these living, breathing individuals are sentient and experience feelings and sensations.

Farmed animals are aware of and experience a wide range of feelings, from joy and happiness to fear and pain. They have a much greater cognitive ability than many people want to acknowledge since doing so might force humanity to reconsider our treatment of them. Acknowledging the sentience of farmed animals opposes the cognitive dissonance that has enabled humans to justify using and abusing animals as food, clothing, or other commodities.

So how do we know just how intelligent and aware farmed animals are? In cooperation with the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, Farm Sanctuary has founded The Someone Project. “The Someone Project is a research-based initiative documenting farmed animal sentience through science.” This project proves that farmed animals are someone rather than something. Please continue reading to see what science says about farmed animals and their wide range of emotional and intellectual abilities.

Group of intelligent pigs in a natural setting

Unveiling the Intelligence and Sentience of Pigs

Pigs have lived closely with humans for 9,000 years and are well-known for their high intelligence and quirky personalities. Studies have proven that pigs are just as intelligent as dogs or young human children. They are self-aware, and each has their unique likes and dislikes. Pigs enjoy participating in play and exhibit emotions similar to humans, canines, and felines.

Proficiency in Object Discrimination by Pigs

Pigs are experts at distinguishing different objects in various situations. Their capacity for memory retention is impressive, and they can even prioritize things they like or that offer food rewards. Studies have demonstrated that pigs can easily recognize shapes, colors, sizes, and other attributes.

Pigs’ Remarkable Ability to Learn Symbolic Language

Pigs are like dolphins, chimpanzees, or other great apes in their ability to understand symbolic language. They comprehend verbal signals and gestures that represent objects or actions. It is common for pigs to learn complex combinations of symbols for things and activities, such as “fetch the frisbee,” and select the proper object from numerous choices.

Grasping the Concept of Time with Pigs

When given a choice between two crates requiring various amounts of confinement time, a pig will always choose the one with less time, proving that pigs exhibit a remarkable ability to understand time intervals and past events, adding another layer to their already impressive cognitive repertoire.

Pigs have a sense of the future, as well. When given a choice between two rooms, one with a positive outcome (a bowl of popcorn) and one with a negative outcome (crossing a ramp over a simulation of a cliff), pigs were able to recognize the auditory cues associated with each result and decide based on their anticipation of what was to come. This pattern of behavior suggests that they anticipated the adverse event.

Uncovering Pigs’ Exceptional Spatial Learning and Memory Skills

Science has proven that pigs have the ability to learn, remember, and apply information regarding their environment’s layout and objects’ location. Their talent to solve mazes and tests that require locating specific objects is impressive. They will navigate complex environments and retain spatial information, broadening our appreciation for their cognitive prowess and challenging conventional views of farmed animals. Even after a substantial amount of time, pigs remember areas that offer better food rewards and repeatedly return to them. This example of memory retention suggests that pigs have a sense of quantity and quality.

Pigs’ Enthusiasm for Exploration

“Studies reveal that pigs possess a sophisticated understanding of their physical surroundings, navigate efficiently, remember and anticipate experiences, and enjoy their world through play.”

Pigs are intelligent beings who engage with their environment, demonstrating their curiosity and zest for life as they actively seek out new experiences and interactions, which indicates cognitive complexity. They are inventive in their play with objects, humans, or other pigs, similar to dogs and other intelligent mammals.

Unraveling the Complex Social Dynamics of Pigs

The world of pigs are also socially complex and show affinities for their favorite pig companions or humans while showing disdain for others they dislike. They continually exhibit the ability to tell individuals apart and prefer familiar individuals over strangers. These intelligent beings form strong bonds, cooperate, and display empathy, shedding light on their emotional depth.

A Fascinating Glimpse into Pig’s Cognitive World

“Pigs can take the perspective of other pigs, and they even use this information to manipulate each other.”

Perspective-taking is the complex mental ability to recognize that another individual has thoughts, motivations, intentions, and emotions that may differ from yours. Pigs can recognize and understand their fellow pigs’ thoughts, motivations, intentions, and feelings, even using this information to manipulate each other. This remarkable ability highlights their empathic and social nature.

“I” Am Pig! The Intriguing World of Pig Self-Awareness and Agency

Many pigs exhibit the ability to recognize themselves in mirrors. Discerning a reflection is known as mirror self-recognition or MSR. Pigs recognize themselves in mirrors, displaying self-awareness that challenges what most people believe about farmed animals’ cognitive abilities. They also show self-agency, or the ability to understand that their actions can have an effect and cause change.

In one game, pigs are allowed to investigate their own body using a mirror. Later in another location, a mark is placed on their body in an area they can only see in the mirror. When the pig is in front of a mirror later on, they often use the mirror to learn about the new mark instead of considering the reflected image as another pig. They can also locate food only visible in the mirror’s reflection.

Exploring the Emotional Richness and Sensitivity of Pigs

“Emotions may be challenging to study and interpret, but the emotional experiences of pigs are evident in their play, fear and stress responses, and their sensitivity to the emotions of their companions.”

Studies reveal pigs exhibit emotional contagion, the ability to feel and respond to the emotional states of others around them, often learning from and following the cues of their companions. They often learn emotional behaviors from the other pigs around them by following their signals. Emotions can be challenging to study and interpret, but the emotional experiences of pigs are evident in their play, fear and stress responses, and their empathic connections with fellow pigs.

Discovering the Unique Pig Traits and Individual Personalities

“Through respectful non-invasive study, we may come to realize that pigs are not very different from the dogs and cats we share our homes with. They may even be not very different from ourselves.”

Pigs exhibit a wide range of behaviors, temperaments, coping styles, and responses. Researchers have studied the behaviors, temperament, coping techniques, and responses of various pigs and found them vastly different in each individual.

Group of sheep grazing in a field

Shedding Light on the Rich Emotional World of Sheep

Historically, sheep are portrayed as simple-minded followers with no thoughts or feelings. In reality, they are way more complex than these stereotypes suggest. As we examine the complex emotional lives of sheep, who are often misrepresented and misunderstood, it is easy to see how intelligent and complex they are.

Evolution and Domestication: Long-Standing Relationships between Sheep and Humans

Sheep became domesticated at least 10,000 years ago, making them one of the earliest species to be kept by humans. They can live up to 20 years, though they rarely are allowed to live out even half of their lifespan. Mothers develop close bonds with their lambs and communicate with them through bleats. They also show great distress when separated from one another, much like humans.

Unveiling Sheep’s Impressive Cognitive Abilities and Problem-Solving Skills

Sheep are especially good at mazes, spatial navigation, problem-solving, and decision-making. When feeling ill, sheep can select appropriate plants to eat to help them feel better. Sheep also exhibit executive function and cognitive tasks like their exceptional facial recognition abilities, which may surpass those of dogs, pigs, and even primates,

Delving into the Complex Emotional Lives and Expressions of Sheep

Regardless of widespread stereotypes, sheep experience complex emotions and communicate these feelings to other sheep, form expectancies, and become upset when their expectations aren’t met. Their bonds with others have also proven that they experience cognitive bias, a change in thinking based on emotional experiences. Sheep show signs of intense happiness through playing and frolicking. Mothers and lambs form deep connections immediately and become devastated when they are separated too early.

Uncovering Individuality and Diverse Character Traits in Sheep

Sheep show various personality differences compared to humans, animals, and other sheep. They can be shy or outgoing, exhibit leadership qualities or follow others, and even show preferences for particular companions over others. Their distinct personalities challenge the simplistic stereotypes often associated with sheep and deepen understanding of their remarkable complexity.

Debunking Stereotypes and Revealing Sheep’s Intricate Relationships

“Contrary to popular views and representations of sheep as unintelligent and lacking in individuality or autonomy, they have several complex capacities.”

Sheep exhibit complexity in their relationships and interactions with each other. They form friendships, recognize and respond to individual differences, and establish various group roles based on personality traits and gender. Bolder sheep tend to be the accepted leaders. Males and females also exhibit different personality traits and fill multiple positions within the group. Because sheep are very social individuals, they become upset when separated or isolated from each other.

Two cows cuddling in a field

The Intricate Social Bonds and Cognitive Skills of Cows

Cows are intelligent individuals with unique personalities and complex thought processes. They have the same emotional capacity as animals such as dogs.

Exploring Cow’s Remarkable Sensory Abilities

Cows have a wide range of sensory capacities passed down from their ancestors, revealing their impressive abilities in taste, smell, vision, and touch. Their tongues contain around 20,000 taste buds. They love a combination of sweet and salty foods and use their acute sense of smell in social situations and the ability to detect specific nutrients like sodium. In addition, they can use their sense of smell in social situations, but they rely primarily on vision to navigate their environment. Cows have around 330 degrees of sight, a field of vision twice the range of humans. Their heightened awareness makes them able to detect stress hormones in their companion’s urine and they have an acute sense of touch, making life on factory farms even more miserable and traumatizing.

Learning and Memory in Cows: Debunking Stereotypes

Contrary to stereotypical beliefs, cows learn rapidly, remember what they’ve learned, and recognize each other as individuals.

Cows have a great sense of object discrimination, can differentiate between various objects, and even recognize photos of things or individuals based on shapes, sizes, colors, and brightness. Studies have also shown that cows recognize individual humans, other cows, and other species.

Another impressive characteristic of cows is their sense of spatial intelligence. They learn about their environments and use that information to navigate around them. Like pigs and sheep, cows are also very good at solving mazes, further showcasing their cognitive ability.

Exploring Cow’s Emotional Depth and Interconnectedness

Cows experience many basic and complex emotions and often tune in to each other’s feelings. Since they are highly social beings, they rely heavily on friends and family in their herd for comfort and support. When isolated, they experience high-stress levels since they should live in large social groups.

When cows master a new task, they show positive emotions, which demonstrates a level of self-awareness. Studies have shown cows also display a high cognitive bias similar to sheep. They display empathic tendencies by recognizing and adopting the feelings and behaviors of their companions, such as stress.

Embracing Natural Curiosity and the Emotional Importance of Play for Cows

“Findings suggest that better welfare conditions — including access to fellow cows, more time spent nursing as a calf, and fewer experiences of pain — increase a cow’s play behavior and, by extension, help enable the range of pleasures cows can experience.”

Cows have a natural curiosity for the world around them. Part of their emotional well-being comes from their love of play. Play is a crucial learning tool for cows, enabling them to interact successfully with others and express emotions. Sadly, cows raised in factory farms are robbed of their instinct to explore and play together.

Unveiling The Rich Social Lives and Interactions of Cows

Cows are highly social beings who establish and maintain relationships, forming a central community, and often exhibit preferences for specific individuals. It is common for them to show preferences for one individual in their herd over another. Additionally, mothers and calves experience a great bond when they are allowed to be together. Separation has a devastating emotional impact on mother cows and calves when separated. Some mother cows have been known to cry out for weeks or even months when mourning the loss of a calf and will return again and again to the last place they saw them.

Personality in Cows: Recognizing Their Individuality and Unique Character Traits

“We hope that insight into the feeling, thinking lives of cows inspires a future in which cows are not used as commodities but, rather, celebrated for who they are.”

When it comes to personality, cows are a lot like humans. They each have a unique disposition with traits that vary from individual to individual. Every cow or bull reacts differently in similar situations, showcasing their unique likes, dislikes, and emotions. We dream of a future where cows are not treated as commodities but celebrated for who they indeed are as sentient beings with thoughts, feelings, and the right to live in peace.

Flock of chickens in a field

Unraveling the Surprising Intelligence and Emotional Lives of Chickens

Chickens have complex intellects and unique individual personalities. While current research on chicken intelligence may not be comprehensive, we continue to uncover surprising aspects of their cognitive and emotional lives that challenge common misconceptions about these fascinating birds.

Domestication of Chickens: Understanding Social Lives and Hierarchies

When allowed to thrive in a natural setting, chickens live in social groups with one dominant male and one dominant female to lead the flock. Their home range often consists of various roosting sites, where they rest and bond with their companions. Understanding chickens’ social hierarchies and group dynamics gives us valuable insights into their complex and fascinating lives.

Exploring The Remarkable Sensitivity and Perception of Chickens

There are various ways that chickens perceive and interact with their environment through their sensory capacities. Chickens are also sensitive to touch, allowing them to detect temperature, pressure, and pain. Their heightened senses of vision, smell, and taste enable them to see a broader range of colors and hear more sounds than humans. In addition, some have a magnetic sense, which allows them to feel the Earth’s magnetic pull and use it to orient themselves.

A chicken’s beak is highly specialized and contains numerous nerve endings, allowing them to distinguish between objects they touch. This tactile perception is crucial for their interactions with the environment, foraging, and social behavior. In factory farms, beaks are often chopped off without anesthesia to prevent them from self-harm or harming each other when kept in stressful, cramped living areas.

Revealing Deductive Reasoning Abilities in Chickens

Chickens exhibit a remarkable cognitive ability to apply transitive inference, a type of deductive reasoning. This capability helps them to understand the relationship of objects they have not previously compared and allows them to learn by observing other chickens. Their reasoning abilities further demonstrate the complex intelligence of these beings, challenging long-held misconceptions about their cognitive capacities.

Uncovering Chickens Innate Mathematical Skills

Chickens can differentiate between smaller and larger amounts and place varying quantities in a series, even as young chicks. They have also displayed an ability to perform basic arithmetic. A study conducted by researchers from the Centre for Mind/Brain Sciences at the University of Trento and the Department of General Psychology at the University of Padova in Italy demonstrated that chicks could add and subtract using numbers smaller than five.

Chickens’ Perception of Time Intervals

Various scientific studies suggest that chickens have a concept of time and can estimate time intervals and anticipate future events using past experiences. Key aspects of their time perception abilities include predicting mealtimes, which showcases an ability to understand time intervals. They are also talented at differentiating between various sounds and associating them with specific outcomes, suggesting a sophisticated cognitive ability to process and remember temporal patterns.

Episodic Memory in Chickens

Episodic memory is the ability to recall a specific event from the past. Perceiving time intervals and anticipating the future are two capacities correlated with episodic memory. Some examples of chickens’ episodic memory include recalling “where” and “what” information. Studies show that chicks and adult chickens can remember specific details about food, like what type it is and where it is served. Chickens have also proven that they can recognize partially visible of everyday objects, even when they aren’t completely visible, suggesting memory beyond simple recognition.

Chickens’ Self-Control: Demonstrating Patience and Decision-Making

By resisting immediate gratification in favor of more desirable rewards, chickens show a level of patience and decision-making ability that is remarkable and often underestimated. Chickens are able to forgo an immediate reward when they know that a better one will become available later, demonstrating their ability to evaluate options and make decisions based on potential future outcomes. In self-control tests, they have outperformed human participants between three and five years old.

Deeper Understanding of the “I” for Chickens

Self-awareness is a continuum, or the ability to distinguish oneself as independent of others or the ability to see the “I” in their existence. Chickens possess self-awareness that allows them to differentiate themselves and their flock from other chickens and navigate complex social environments. Their ability to assess their place in the social order of their community is another trait that demonstrates self-awareness.

Language of Chickens: Complex Vocalizations and Visual Displays

Chickens communicate and possess a sophisticated communication system, which includes at least twenty-four vocalizations and numerous visual displays. Attaching specific meanings to different sounds and reacting appropriately suggests a level of intentionality, meaning they deliberately choose the information they want to convey. Their ability to associate particular meanings with certain sounds indicates they have mental depictions of these signals.

The complex cognitive capacities found in chickens allow them to navigate complex relationships with each other. When living in a flock, they easily differentiate between individuals, can identify their own flock members, and determine others’ places in the pecking order.

Chickens learn from each other by observing and mimicking behaviors, contributing to their adaptability and social cohesion. In addition, chickens can anticipate another chicken’s actions and even manipulate other chickens to achieve their goals, showcasing their understanding of cause-and-effect relationships in social settings.

The Emotional World of Chickens

“Considered a simple form of empathy, emotional contagion occurs when one individual experiences an emotion by witnessing another individual experience the same emotion.”

The emotional lives of chickens are more complex and intricate than commonly believed. They experience many emotions and empathize with flock members, especially between a mother hen and her chicks. As a simple form of empathy, emotional contagion allows chickens to feel the emotions experienced by other individuals around them, strengthening social bonds and creating flock cohesion. They share both positive and negative emotions and can respond effectively to different situations. Emotions are essential in the social hierarchy of chickens, affecting their response and behavior towards different types of situations within their flock.

The Unique Personalities of Chickens

“A fuller understanding of these fascinating creatures requires much more respectful, non-invasive study in naturalistic settings that allow chickens to express themselves and, in so doing, help us learn more about who they are.”

Each chicken exhibits a unique pattern of thinking, behaviors, and emotions. Recognizing these unique personalities requires observing chickens in naturalistic settings that allow them to express themselves freely. Caretakers who keep chickens in a natural environment understand that every chicken displays an individual personality that includes but is not limited to, temperament, preferences, and behaviors.

Dog and cows in a field

The Someone Project: Shedding Light on the Inner Lives of Farmed Animals

The Someone Project is a groundbreaking initiative that challenges us, through science, to realize that farmed animals are intelligent, sentient beings with an impressive capacity for experiencing complex feelings and sensations. They all have unique personalities and incredible capabilities for learning and applying knowledge.

Researchers with The Someone Project have published numerous papers detailing farmed animals’ cognitive and emotional abilities. They continue to add to their research that these beings are not “its” and deserve kindness and respect. By recognizing farmed animals as “someones” rather than “somethings,” we can work towards a future where humanity dictates that all intelligent, sentient beings are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.




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