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I am very interested in pigs, and recently I read that some farmers will give pigs nose rings to prevent them from rooting. This seems cruel considering that the nose is a pig's primary means of interaction with the world. However, I've also seen some arguments that preventing pigs from rooting protects then from parasites and infections that might be in the soil.

Have there been any studies on the psychological and health effects of nose rings for pigs? I am having difficulty finding much information beyond basic pet care and enthusiast sites.

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  • Are you looking to keep a pig as a pet? I hear they're great companions, but I just wanted to clarify that. – John Cavan Mar 14 '14 at 20:08
  • I would like to have a pig as a pet eventually, yes! I dont intend to start a small farm or anything, but i am still interested in whether or not this is cruel, just as a general pig enthusiast. – SkyPiglet Mar 14 '14 at 21:14
  • That's cool. Just confirming since we're generally not about farming here. At any rate, I have an opinion on this, but I can't back it with facts right now. – John Cavan Mar 14 '14 at 21:16
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    @SkyPiglet It sounds like you have done some research and may have more information than many other contributors to this site. Would you be interested in posting an answer to this question yourself? Someone else may come along latter with a better answer, or you may learn more and be able to improve your answer. Currently I think you are the most qualified active person on the site to provide an answer. – James Jenkins Mar 15 '14 at 16:14
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    Humans give themselves nose rings voluntarily for fun. Other than depriving if of its ability to root, I don't imagine it being too psychologically scarring to the pig. In the Wikipedia, if something is controversial there is often a "controversy" section. There is no such section for "Nose ring (animal)" – Beo Apr 9 '14 at 16:36
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I don't have any great answers, but since no-one else has chimed in...

We haven't ever ringed our (farm) pigs: we let them dig things up and then move them. How much they root seems to be somewhat of an individual thing (maybe partly a learned thing?). We had one batch of piglets which did much less rooting around. And we know people who raise Large Blacks, who say that they are great on pasture because they don't root unless there are no plants above-ground for them to forage on.

So I'd say it's not particularly cruel. Pigs, in my experience, are pretty...mellow? Philosophical? They take life as it comes. I would bet that they don't waste much time being upset about it and simply find other ways to keep busy, even if it's just horsing around with each other.

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I know this question is very old, but as there is no answer and I've got strong feelings concerning this topic, I thought I'd post my two cents.

Here in the Netherlands, nose rings have been illegal since 2001 because it was found cruel. The rooting behavior is important to these animals, and their noses are extremely sensitive.

Apparently one of the main reasons to use the rings was to keep them from destroying the grass. I found a small article (Dutch) from Wageningen University and Research that talks about alternatives. They also confirm it is painful for the pigs, every time they hit something with the ring.

From the article (linked below):

Pro:

  • Pigs don't get infected with worm eggs as easily
  • They don't destroy the grass, saving you costs for repairs

Con:

  • The ring hurts the animal every time it hits something
  • It prevents them from acting on their primal behavior.
  • Pigs often get swellings or extremely sensitive areas because of in-proper fitting

Alternatives:

  • Use stronger, faster growing grasses, this prevents the grazing behavior from changing into rooting + the grass will repair itself faster
  • Keep less pigs on the same land
  • Don't let them out around feeding time (prime-time for rooting)
  • Don't let them out after rain (worms coming up are tempting for the pigs)
  • Create areas where they are allowed to root so they leave the other areas alone

(Dutch) Article: http://edepot.wur.nl/48739

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We raised 200 pigs per year, when they were about 3 to 5 weeks old, we vaccinated, castrated, and nose-ringed. We set up a line - about 3 catchers, the vet with syringes/bottles, the castrating board, and the ringer. A catcher would grab a pig, go thru a gate, get in line & hold the pig while the vet gave the shots. He then moved to the castrate line and held the pig during castration. And then moved to the ringer line - and then put the pig thru a pasture gate.

As for cruelty, I'm guessing that the ringing was the least cruel of the 3 processes. Hard to tell, pigs scream continuously the entire time that you handle them (be sure to wear ear protection). And wear leather gloves, they reach around and bite your thumb at every opportunity.

If you grow pastured hogs, you'll need rings, 250 pound hogs can dig under most fences, actually pull posts out of ground, wreck the side of wooden buildings, etc. If you are raising hogs on concrete confinement, they hurt each other - when they fight, they bite each other, the rings make that uncomfortable for them.

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