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Rights: University of Waikato
Published 9 November 2011
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LCT sources its pig cells from a unique breed of pigs. The pigs are kept in a specially designed designated pathogen-free barrier facility that prevents entry of disease-causing pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria.

Independent vets monitor the pigs’ welfare, and facility staff work hard to make sure the pigs are happy and healthy. The cells are sourced from 7–16 day old piglets, and the staff respond to the needs of each sow after her piglets are taken away.

Questions to consider

  • Why is pig welfare important?
  • What techniques do the staff use to keep pigs happy and healthy?

Transcript

Isobel Cooper (Living Cell Technologies)
All animals in New Zealand that are kept for any reason – be farm animals, research animals, pets – are all held under the Animal Welfare Act so everything that we do would come under that. We have our own vets that come in regularly into the facility – they’re not employed by LCT – they’re outside vets that come in to monitor the health and welfare of the animals.

Well to us, it’s really important that the pigs are happy. If the pigs are happy, they breed really well, and at the end of the day, we like a lot of piglets so that we can get lots of cells to help diabetics. Our pigs are kept in their own pens, and the staff are trained to look after them and care for them in a very quiet calm way. And the pigs are given lots of games to play, toys to play with and just kept happy – they have music playing during the day.

It can be quite difficult because a lot of things you might do for your own pet to keep them happy, like take them for a walk, you can’t necessarily take one of our pigs outside for a walk. But they’re let out twice a day, every day when they’re cleaned out, and they’re encouraged to exercise, and they’re given balls to play with and to run up and down and chase, which a lot of them really enjoy doing. We’ve tried all sorts of toys for them over the years and most of which they destroy very quickly. Basketballs they really like, but they get their jaws round it and they’ve got very, very powerful jaws and quite often burst the balls within 5 minutes. But then they will throw them around anyway so that’s quite handy.

Another thing they like to do is have a bath, so when we’re washing down and scrubbing their pens out, we’ll put some extra bubbles down on the floor for them and they’ll roll around and get soaked in bubbles, and then we’ll hose them off with the cold hose to rinse them down, and they love that.

When their piglets are taken, some of the sows can actually be very upset. Each pig reacts differently, and in order to help them get through that, they’re always moved to a new pen, which has been freshly disinfected, and the staff will pay extra attention to that pig that day. They will use several different tactics to distract them if they’re looking depressed, they’ll be given extra toys to play with.

Acknowledgement:
PRN Films