Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Pigs recorded using tools (nationalgeographic.com)
134 points by rising-sky 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments

Finally this is proven. It is by no means surprising. Wild domestic pigs, which I know are a different species, are a plague in much of North America and Australia partially due to their intelligence. Half the North American pig problem is in Texas where an estimated 2-2.5 million pigs roam the country side. Because they are such a threat to the environment and their population is so out of control there is no limit on hunting them in either season or quantity.

Pigs are particularly challenging to control because of their intelligence and lack of predators. Because of their size, intelligence, and aggressiveness they have no natural predators in Texas. They are quick to learn of hunting traps and will either avoid or disarm them. A herd of pigs reduced in population by 70% can rebound within 2-3 years without continued management.

They tear up the land and are a serious threat to the natural ecology and food supply. Their damage to commercial agriculture is estimated at $50 million per year, but their damage to property and the environment is estimated at close to half a billion each year. Because of their high intelligence they are adapting their range from rural areas to suburbs and urban areas. Unlike coyotes, which have also adapted from rural to urban areas with great success, they are often not afraid of people are known to hurt people in attacks.


I found it interesting that many of these things you could also say about humans. Massive populations, no predators anymore, environmental damage, intelligence ...

There are a ton of cool similarities, including compatibility of tissues in transplants! Also according to cannibals we taste similar (hence 'long pig' as a term for human flesh). Smart, deeply interesting animals.


> no natural predators in Texas

estimated texan pig population 2-2.5 million vs estimated texan human population 28-39 million. let's estimate 5% of texan humans don't eat pork.

texan pigs are still outnumbered 10 to 1 by a predator that will kill and eat them. if i were a texan pig, i'd be pretty anxious about that.

...taste a bit like pig...

The same is happening with the wild boar in Sweden. They're multiplying like there's no tomorrow. IIRC from the radio news item I heard, there's now 4x more car collisions with wild boars than with moose, which is a bit of an unusual situation here. Volvo may need to recalibrate their safety effort...

The national government here just announced a few days ago they'll allocate resources on streamlining Trichinella round-worm testing procedures and encouraging use of wild boar meat in restaurants, school food, fast food (McBoar, anyone?) etc. Many farmers have been complaining about ruined fields.

>The same is happening with the wild boar in Sweden. They're multiplying like there's no tomorrow.

It is the same in Italy, not everywhere but in several regions.

Here they make a sort of "quota" of how many can (and should ) be hunted and killed in a given area to keep population under control.

Still there are years when the "quota" is not calculated (no idea how it is actually calculated) correctly and we have simply too many of them roaming around, to the dismay of farmers and more generally those living in the countryside as they (the boars) can really ruin a field or garden in no time.

As a side note, the actual meat, once checked negative for parasites, is among the "best" ones, in the sense that it is free from antibiotics and other drugs possibly used with raised pigs and the food the boars eat is 100% natural.

> The same is happening with the wild boar in Sweden.

It’s not really the same. In Sweden, wild boars are effectively an indigenous species, present since the stone age. In the Americas, wild boars are an invasive species and a veritable menace to the local flora and fauna.

Why does that difference matter? Edit: I mean: they have been multiplying like mad over the past 20 years. Why shouldn't we allow hunters to shoot them in some organizer manner to keep the population at some constant healthy size, like we do with the moose population?

And why shouldn't that meat be used to feed people?

The difference is that a non-invasive species is not usually a problem for the local environment. There is no reason to believe that wild boar suddenly would be multiplying massively in their native environment, since the wild boars should have natural predators and environmental factors keeping the population limited. If those are missing, the natural (and often relatively easy, compared to the alternatives) response would be to re-intruduce those natural predators and/or environments.

In short, there is probably not that much to worry about wild boars in their natural environment. To Americans, though, who are used to thinking about wild boars as a unadultered horrifying menace (which they are where they live), describing Sweden as “the same” is misleading at best.

The natural predator for larger animals is often humans. We stop hunting them and the numbers grow until the food supply limits are hit. This often affects other creatures too, who may also rely on the same food.

But they clearly are multiplying massively. I can quote any number of Swedish language sources that back up that statement, but that wouldn't be of general interest to the HN community. I'll happily concede that we disagree on semantics.

> But they clearly are multiplying massively.

In which case, as I explained, there is probably a comparatively easy solution involving reinforcing the naturally preexisting factors which usually limit the population growth. In any case, there is no reasonable way in which the situation of wild boars in America and Sweden could be described as “the same”. They are fundamentally wildly different.

You really need some AR-15s, I suppose. What else are you going to do when 30-40 feral hogs come barging across your lawn?

I assume it will be dealt with like the moose population has been dealt with since like forever. Like half of them are hunted every year. (Hunting teams will be awarded a number of animals to kill per district. I don't think they'll use AR-15s)

Hunting invasive wild boar is encouraged year round in many jurisdictions. Lots of people choose to use their AR-15s. An excellent platform available in all kinds of calibers.

I think you missed the joke (maybe?). https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/30-50-feral-hogs

Yeah, I guess I did.

It is the new normal in the outskirts of Berlin. Environmental protection (championed in areas of Berlin where no Boars will ever be encountered), makes it illegal to do anything.




A friend of mine is a farmer. He supplies all kinds of meat to butchers in the local area, except pig.

I wondered why, and he told me that after he had kids he decided pigs are about as intelligent as a 3 year old, and he simply couldn't bring himself to kill them anymore.

Hmm, I've been around farm animals all my life, and if your criteria for not killing them is basic intelligence, many of them are well past that line. I'm not sure about 'intelligent as a 3 year old' as in many ways they're both smarter and dumber than that. But you can't hang around any of these animals and pretend they aren't clever.

Interesting how we tend to value life based on intellectual capability. I suppose its an emergent effect of our human-driven empathy.

You could make the argument that being an omnivore is the most "moral" standing (excluding climate effects), as it does not value life based on its similarity to us. It holds life to have intrinsic value.

It's not that novel or different from how we treat each other nowadays. It's not empathy. Intellectual capability determines the value of your contributions to society thus your value as a person. Bravery and stupidity disguised as "courage" were the virtues determining your worth in middles ages, now we check the intellect. Intellect tells us how valuable your life is, and intellect is what some people (e.g. politicians) are so good at faking.

This is my personal view, but that is nonsense. I understand intelligence is not all these things, but 3 year olds can follow instructions, do pretty advanced problem solving, speak, do basic math, understand logical problems. I'm sure you can find some aspect where a pig and a 3yo are on the same "level", but as a general comparison, it absolutely fails.

I think it's impossible to compare human and animal intelligence because there's a "hard-coded" part to intelligence. I don't think being unable to understand human language says anything about the general intelligence of a non-human animal since humans are at least partially hard-wired to understand language.

That pretty much precludes any animal from ever being able to "follow instructions", "speak", "understand logical problems", etcetera. Even if they would have the general intelligence to do the things we want them to do, it's very difficult to encode that information in a way that they would understand.

For those stymied by the ambiguous parse in the title: Pigs using tools, recorded using cameras.

I initially read it as we are using (even better) tools to record pigs.

This is in part because an article about pig facial recognition frontpaged on HN before: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19277846

I'll admit I didn't think of it that way, but that is a neat and funny ambiguity indeed.

I listened to a podcast today where they guy being interviewed said something to the effect of:

"We like to say that humans are the tool-using animal, but we've found that lots of animals use tools. What I think is the actual advantage of humans is that we are the mimicking animal. We see what works for other animals and find ways to do the same thing without having to evolve those traits"

I thought that was a really interesting way of thinking about it.

There is no single thing having or not having which distinguishes people from other animals, the difference is in the degree at which we can use tools/mimic/create mental models etc.

Is your claim there exists no uniquely human trait as compared to other animals?

That’s interesting I feel like there is but I’m not so certain. How about the Sapiens take on gossip?

There are many traits that become available only when some other trait gets to a high enough value.

For instance gossip requires speech or some other method of communication so only very few species get a chance to it (maybe dolphins? but not likely).

There are traits that are definitely unique, like building rockets, but they are usually complex things.

Seems to be a summation of Dawkins' hypothesis of memetics.

>One of the Visayan warty pigs—a critically endangered species

It's a rare species, what they saw might be genetically coded behaviour, previously unseen because not much behavorial data is available.

What isn't generically coded behavior is pushing rocks against electric fences and listening to the noise to determine if the fence is live or not.

What makes you believe this is a more likely explanation than imitation of what they saw their peers doing?

Electric fences haven’t existed long enough for evolution to have encoded genetic responses to them.

There's a great book called "Lesser Beasts" that dives in to the cultural history of pigs (mostly in Western societies).

Seconded. This is a great book.

I wonder if future species will look back on humanity like we look back on the dinosaurs. Interesting to consider... there's also probably a short story in there.

There is an interesting theory that humans are descended from pig and primate hybrids. This may sound bizarre, but there is evidence of pig primate hybrids in the wild and so-called humanzees have been bred. This theory is also one of the few alternatives to the aquatic ape hypothesis that can explain why humans have skin that is more common for aquatic mammals.

PZ Myers criticized this here: https://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/07/02/the-mfap-hypo...

I still like to think that hybridization played a greater role in evolution than we now suppose.

The proponent (Eugene M McCarthy) has some amazing examples of cross-species fertilization but also some pretty crack-potty stuff. His website is http://www.macroevolution.net/

If true, there would be genetic evidence of this. I've never heard of such a thing. It sounds ridiculous.

Do you have a source?

I just got this from googling, it seems less crack pot-y than I imagined: https://phys.org/news/2013-07-chimp-pig-hybrid-humans.html

I'm having trouble finding the links as the recent humanzee hype currently dominates everything. ... Wait, here is the main page where this is discussed in detail with references: http://www.macroevolution.net/human-origins.html

However, it is critical to understand that with hybrids there may be little if any genetic evidence remaining or it may be simply too scrambled to understand. Hybrids from a genetic point of view are complicated and do not necessarily leave a well defined record in their genetics.

This somehow hits most of my alarms for "bad science", hah.

> there is evidence of pig primate hybrids in the wild

I'm sorry, what?

Peppa pig?

This is a first for me, too. Baby, baby, it’s a wild world...

I've never heard that before, but it immediately made me think of this:

Pig hearts are used to study the anatomy of human hearts because they are very similar in structure, size and function to human hearts.


Are they ramen yet? Or still djur or varelse?

> “It brings us closer to animals,” she says

It is so human to act like we are not also animals.

At least someone is making progress.

The video is missing the Also Sprach Zarathustra theme.

My thought exactly. Someone should mash it up

Obligatory "Cows with guns" comment

Intelligent or not, with tools or not, Garlic butter pork chops are my favourite dish.

I'll probably get downvoted to hell, but hey... let's have this little experiment:

Pigs when they are slaughtered die a horrible death [0]. Right before you have your pork chops, or even during, could you watch a video of a pig being killed and slaughtered (with sound on) and would you still have the same enjoyment - knowing where it came from?

You might not care about animals, so what about the people working in slaughterhouses. Could you work in an environment where you had to kill & slaughter animals all day, hearing their screams, smelling the blood etc. What do you think this environment does to ones psyche? Slaughterhouse workers experience PTSD.

Now you might not care about these workers. How about our biosphere? Several studies have shown the immense strain and damage large scale animal agriculture has on our biosphere [1]

Hey look, we all (or most) love our BBQs or pork chops or whatever. But when approaching this with a critical / logical mind - do we really think that all the damage our craving for culinary pleasures warrants the damage it creates on a human, environmental and animal level?

Ethan Brown provides some alternatives that are worth exploring: https://www.ideacity.ca/video/ethan-brown-beyond-meat/

[0] This if for the UK, but I imagine it's the same for anywhere else https://www.viva.org.uk/what-we-do/slaughter/slaughter-farme...

[1] http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2018-06-01-new-estimates-environmen... - The researcher himself of this study gave up meat & dairy completely after he completed this study/.

PS. If you raise or hunt your own then ignore the stuff above (which is mostly about factory farmed carrion)

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact