... like a stuck pig. This quote has immensely more meaning to me now than it did a month ago. With the start of my project came the blood draws which had been written up in my protocol and approved by the animal care and use committee. Those blood draws seemed fine on paper - take blood every 2 weeks, but in reality, the restraining and bleeding of over 100 pigs is just a bit out of hand. And it doesn't go nearly as fast or efficiently as I would've hoped. My first day at the blood draws I didn't even wear ear plugs, and the ringing in my ears for the remainder of the day was a hard-hitting lesson I haven't forgotten. It might go without saying that we have revised the protocol to require less blood draws from the pigs and I think we can still get enough data to draw some conclusions.
The blood work actually has some very important repercussions for the pigs themselves. I'm looking at blood tests which tell me how much the diet and living conditions are changing stress levels in the pigs, and how their health is holding up over the trial. Many of the assays are similar to what is done on humans to determine their health as well. But most humans don't scream when they give blood for a test.
Pigs are pretty funny creatures. I can say this now because I'm also watching hours and hours of behavioural recordings to determine the effect of the dietary and housing treatments we've imposed. They have a very strong desire to be free to do whatever they want, but not knowing what they actually want they are quite prone to roam aimlessly - stirring up trouble along the way. Pigs play rough and often are to blame for the death of one another, even with maximum human intervention. I can't even imagine how badly they hate on each other in a feral situation. The notion of pigs as intelligent or peaceful creatures is "hogwash", pun intended, because they are merely insistent and curious. They will keep hitting something over and over again until it finally works out, only to find out it wasn't what they wanted anyways because they didn't know what they wanted to start with.
Something else I've noticed which is interesting is the pigs we've placed into organic housing. This housing allows pigs more space and an exercise area. They also have contact with birds. Initially, I expected that pigs would've been super curious and nervous around birds since they do not naturally encounter them during their lifespan. However, they sleep and just let the birds hop all over them, like animals at the zoo, as if they had always been around birds. I learn something new ever day.
Credit to Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog for the picture which I'm sure was borrowed from elsewhere.