The Playing with Pigs project is a collaboration between the Utrecht School of the Arts (Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht), Wageningen University and Wageningen UR Livestock Research. Playing with Pigs is the outcome of a research project ‘ethical room for manoeuvre in livestock farming’, financed by the NWO program ‘ethics, research and public policy’. Pig Chase is being realized with support from Gamefonds. We are very grateful for the cooperation of Varkensbedrijf van der Vegt. We are also thankful for the help from The Village Coffee & Music, Niek Eilander, Michiel Korthals and Marc Bracke.
Designers Kars Alfrink, Irene van Peer and Hein Lagerweij:
During the design process we discovered something that, to our knowledge at the time, animal scientists had not noticed until now: pigs like to play with light. For example, pigs are fascinated by the movement of reflected points of light, and are attracted to new light spots on a surface.
We are very fascinated by the idea of further developing the forms of play this offers, to experiment more with the idea of a symmetrical playspace, and forms of play that are actually cognitively challenging to pigs. Through a game we hope to establish a new relationship between pigs and humans, one that takes elements from the farm, the circus and domestic pets and mixes them in an interesting way.
Philosopher Clemens Driessen, researching animal ethics through design:
By initiating a project to design a game to help relieve the boredom of pigs, a fresh look at pig behaviour and capabilities is generated. Technological designs can ‘disclose’ moral worlds, e.g. by extrapolating existing situations into unsettling proposals. Think of the infamous ‘varkensflat’ (‘pig-tower’) designs: Plans for erecting gigantic high rises in which the current Dutch population of pigs could be mass housed in a more environmentally efficient, controlled, and more animal friendly way in a large sea port raised a storm of protest. This type of radical extrapolation of existing farm practices unsettle normal modes of thought and policy making. Likewise both the design process and the eventual playing of a game with pigs offer ways to explore a variety of ethical questions. This means that technological design can lead to new reflection, on the importance and the meaning of central concepts such as naturalness or intelligence, but also in more direct and embodied ways, in forging new types of human animal encounters and relations. Instead of as only discursive, through formulating arguments, moral concerns can thus also be engaged with by practical intervention. A game allows for the imaginative exploration of these issues not just through solemn contemplation, but by playful engagement.
Animal welfare scientist Marc Bracke:
Humans and pigs have a reputation for being intelligent. Despite this, however, neither humans nor pigs seem to be able exert their cognitive abilities in the best possible ways in their modern environments. Farmed pigs in the European Union are required to have access to ‘enrichment materials’, in order to allow them to perform their (natural) behaviour, to reduce boredom and tail biting, and, hence, to reduce the need for tail docking. This legal requirement has led farmers to provide materials such as a plastic ball or a metal chain with some plastic piping. However, these ‘toys’ for the most part neither resolve societal concerns nor do they appeal to the cognitive abilities of the pigs. To allow for a more interesting development of (human and animal) behaviour, and to learn more about some of the processes involved, a team of designers and researchers joined together to design a game challenging the cognitive abilities of both pigs and humans.
Play design professor Marinka Copier:
Inspired by the Playing with Pigs project we started a Playing with Animals program at the Utrecht School of the Arts. In this research & design program we focus on the design of meaningful play between animals and humans. What happens when species like pigs, bees or fish meet with humans in a technologically mediated play space? How do these playful interactions change our relationship with animals and vice versa? But also, how can the design of interspecies play lead to the development of new game and play design principles and applications.