Sentience in Farm and Other Animals


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To add interest I have interspersed this commentary with thought provoking quotations from philosophers, ethicists, scientists and other notable thinkers both past and present.
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Expressions of sentience: intelligence, communication and tool making

I was so moved by the intelligence, sense of fun and personalities of the animals I worked with on Babe that by the end of the film I was a vegetarian.
James Cromwell

As we unfortunately set so much importance on intelligence, often to the detriment of not only other species but members of our own, lets begin by discussing how intelligence manifests in farm animals

Every creature is intelligent in his or her own way, most are able to learn to do complex tests in research situations that show that they can learn. But even simple behaviours in animals show a degree of intelligence, such as building nests, caring for their young, finding food and a place to sleep at night, keeping themselves warm and finding shelter, to name just a few of the more simple daily tasks of which all creatures are able, however most are capable of more complex abilities as we shall see.

Although not a prerequisite for sentience nonetheless many people set store in intelligence as a good indicator of sentience. But there again even amongst human beings there is a difference of opinion or perception as to what constitutes intelligence. There are also different types of intelligence as I hope to explain.

Two of the most common indications of intelligence in the human animal is our ability to communicate and to use tools. At least these are the two main criteria by which many people measure intelligence. Personally I consider that neither is necessary to establish the presence of intelligence. Nonetheless we will consider both criteria. Our ability to communicate and make tools are two of the main and most obvious differences which appear to set us apart from other animals. Yet do they? Do animals communicate? Do they use tools?

It is just like man's vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.
Mark Twain

Firstly Communication

We cannot talk with [animals] as we can with human beings, yet we can communicate with them on mental and emotional levels. They should, however, be accorded equality in that they should receive both compassion and respect; it is unworthy of us to exploit them in any way.
Rebecca Hall

Concerning communication, although most of us can communicate on some level with other mammals, most notably a cat or a dog, we may find that we cannot do so with other creatures particularly non mammalian animals, for instance reptiles, most fish or insects, although all is not as it seems in this regard, see:
Sentience in Farm Animals, aquatic animals. Does this indicate that these creatures are not aware and hence not sentient or is it that they are simply not aware on our level and that their level of awareness does not include us. But this does not imply that they lack sentience, it is simply that we lack the ability to communicate with them.

Man considers himself superior to other creatures; from years of cultural and religious belief he considers himself the centre of the universe, the pinnacle and even the purpose of creation; and that all creation revolves around him; and that other creatures are here merely to serve his purpose and are therefore not considered as beings in their own right. This is particularly the case with western cultures and within the beliefs of the Abrahamic religions. Aristotle also played some role in the western concept of animals as lacking intelligence as I will explain further on. Particularly in times past man could not perceive that other creatures have evolved for their own purposes or for no purpose at all, as indeed could well be considered is also the case for man. Perhaps creatures that we cannot communicate with are simply not aware of our existence. Although they seem impervious, unaware, it is no indication that they do not possess a level of awareness or sentience, but that they do so according to their own kind and not according to our kind. After all we are not directly aware of the millions of creatures which occupy our environment, such as bacteria or dust mites. Are you aware for instance that on your skin exists whole populations of creatures unseen by the naked eye? In short awareness and sentience may mean different things to different types of creatures. It is yet again the arrogance of man and the remnants of an anachronistic type of thinking that continues still today to make man think that another creature lacks intelligence simply because this creature does not relate to him and seems oblivious of his existence. For man who perceives himself the crowing glory of either evolution or creation, it apparently seems inconceivable that another animal might be oblivious to him and for him to concede that such a creature may be intelligent, sentient.

Sadly it is mainly these differences: the lack of speech, which erroneously we perceive as an inability to communicate, and an inability to use tools, although there is much evidence that indeed some animals do use tools as we shall see later on, that have in my opinion lead to the belief that other animals are not sentient. Particularly concerning their inability to talk or at least communicate according to our concept of communication as a complex language system.

In fact it was for this very reason that Aristotle had a low opinion of animals concerning their intellect. In ancient Greece reason was linked with speech, the word logos was used to mean both speech and reason and thought was considered like talking to ones self, therefore if a creature was unable to talk he could not reason. Aristotle was of course aware that animals did make some kinds of noises, grunts and so on but he considered that this was no real form of communication and as such did not constitute a real language, and as a consequence he concluded that animals lacked intelligence and the ability to reason and could have no belief at all. However, Theopphrastus who was a student of Aristotle rejected his tutorís view of animals. He believed it was wrong to cause suffering to animals because animals where like us, their bodies had the same kind of fluids and tissues and also like us they where sentient beings capable of emotions, feelings and reasoning.

Later Greek philosophers of ancient times disagreed with Aristotle's interpretation of animal intellect. Pythagoras believed that both human and non human animals where made of the same elements. He believed that the same breath that gave life to us gave life also to other animals and furthermore he believed that animals could be reincarnated as humans, and assumedly that at one time humans where in past lives animals. As a consequence of such beliefs he and his followers opposed cruelty to animals and their use in ritualistic sacrifice, which was a common practice in the ancient world Sheep in religion and mythology

Sadly though Aristotle's opinions have prevailed and have greatly predisposed western cultural attitudes towards viewing animals as unintelligent, unaware automatons, a concept which is still the predominate influence in western attitudes towards animals to this very day, or at least up until more recent times when thankfully this view is seriously questioned by biologists and people generally.

But animals do talk do they not, or at least communicate one with another, but in their own way, a way different to ours. There follows an example from a book written in the early 20th century, How Animals Talk by William L. long. This remarkable book examines the phenomenon of not only the vocal communication that takes place between animals but also a silent even motionless communication. Mr Long through personal observation discovered that animals are more intelligent, moral and emotional than we care to consider. He gives account of unexplained animal abilities, such as a creature's capacity to sense the presence of another animal, and what seems for all intents and purposes to be telepathic behaviours and premonition.

"I have occasionally had the great good luck to observe a she-wolf leading her pack across the white expanse of a frozen lake in winter; and at such times the cubs have a doggish impulse to run after any moving object that attracts their attention. If a youngster breaks away to rush an animal that he sees moving in the woods (once the moving animal was myself), the mother heads him instantly if he is close to her; but if he is off before she can check him by motion of her head or low growl, she never wastes time in or strength in chasing him. She simply holds quiet, lifts her head high, and looks steadily at the running cub. Suddenly he wavers, halts, and than, as if the look recalled him, whirls and speeds back to the pack. If the moving object be proper game afoot, the mother now goes ahead to stalk or drive it, while the pack follows stealthily behind her on either side; but if the distant object be a moose or a man, or anything else that a wolf would must not quibble with, than the mother trots quietly on her way without a sound, and the errant cub falls into place as if he had understood her silent command.

Oh if only we had such a faculty and our children were as readily compliant.

Mr Long considered that telepathy was a natural ability,
"that it is a survival, an age old heritance" rather than a new discovery of which all animals are capable but which to us as a result of neglect is largely a lost skill, except in a few individuals. He says:

"I am led to this conviction because I have found something that very much resembles telepathy in frequent use throughout the animal kingdom. It is as, I think and shall try to make clear, a natural gift or facility of the animal mind which is largely subconscious, and it is from the animal mind that we inherit it, just as a few woods men inherit the animals sense of direction, and cultivate it and trust it till they are sure of their way in any wilderness, while the large majority of men, dulled by artificial habits, go promptly astray, whenever they venture beyond beaten trails.

That animals inherit this power of silent communication over great distances is occasionally manifest even among our half-natural domestic creatures. For example that same old setter of mine, Don, who introduced us to our fascinating subject, was left behind most unwillingly during my terms at school; but he always seemed to know when I was on my way home. For months at a stretch he would stay about the house, obeying my mother perfectly, though she never liked a dog; but on the day I was expected he would leave the premises, paying no heed to orders, and go to a commanding ledge beside the lane, where he could overlook the highroad. Whenever the hour of my coming, whether noon or midnight, there I would find him waiting.

Once when I was homeward bound unexpectedly, having sent no word of my coming, my mother missed Don and called him in vain, Some hours later, when he did not return at his dinner-time or answer her repeated call, she searched for him and found him camped expectantly in the lane. "Oho! wise dog," said she. " I understand now. "Your master is coming home." And without a doubt that it would soon be needed, she went home and made my room ready."

If you can overlook Mr Long's comments about hunting, which to my way of thinking are rather incongruous with his ideas about animal awareness and intelligence, this is an excellent book full of anecdotes made by keen observation.

It is more than likely that farm animals in their natural existence have similar facilities of which in the case of the dog we would call premonition or intuition, and in the case of the wolf a kind of silent communication which we may call telepathy, levels of sentient awareness that few of us possess.

Nonetheless despite such evidence that animals do indeed communicate and in ways far more complex than our verbosity, the perception of an animalís inability to talk in a way that we can identify has led to a belief that animals are not aware. Even in humans intelligence and awareness is equated with the ability to talk or communicate, an erroneous misconception. Many people have a communication impediment, for example people with autism. In severe cases the child, and indeed adult for autism is not a childhood condition as many people tend to think,  rocks backwards and forwards lost in his own world seemingly oblivious of those around him. He may appear to be unaware simply because he does not communicate in a way that we accept and to which we can relate according to our concept of what constitutes communication, or how we think people should communicate. But he is nonetheless sentient, intelligent, aware, although there continues to be many ignorant people who may think otherwise. Similar situations occur with some forms of mental illness such as people with schizophrenia, a condition which may occasionally be confused with autism because of similar social deficits, at least as considered in relation to the more common forms of communication. Both avoidant personally disorder and social phobia involve inabilities to communicate, the person appears withdrawn, avoids social contact, is socially inept and may have difficulties holding a conversation. Such people are often considered to be less intelligent, a serious and erroneous misconception. Also people who simply have a physical impediment such as deafness which makes them unable to speak clearly, or indeed any medical condition that renders the power of speech inoperable, have in the past, and still sadly nowadays, been considered in a similar light.

In fact deaf people and others with similar disabilities which make them unable to talk were until fairly recently described as dumb, an archaic word now considered offensive, the term deaf and dumb was often used to describe a person who was deaf and mute. Dumb is an antiquated word that simply means unable to speak but which has become used in a derogatory sense to mean stupid, lacking intelligence. Similarly the perception that animals appear not to communicate, which is itself now so obviously a misconception, has in the past, and still is amongst the uninformed in such matters, been one of the main reasons why for so long animals have been considered to lack sentience. In fact as already mentioned the ability to speak is considered by many to be linked to an ability to think, some people maintain that thinking cannot take place without speech. Does thinking, intelligence and sentience go hand in hand. Yes maybe in some circumstances and to some degree, but does the ability to think, reason and be aware depend upon speech as Aristotle once thought. Personally I think not.

So thinking is another comparison with ourselves which may lead some to consider that animals lack sentience because they do not think in the way we think, in terms of using words to think, as already mentioned this was the reason why Aristotle considered that it was not possible for animals to be intelligent or sentient. Most people tend to think in words and pictures but mostly in words, pictures it seems are generated by our thoughts, our thinking in words, rather than from direct stimulus. In other words the thought proceeds the picture. And from this concept it may appear that it is not possible to think without words or to experience awareness of ones self or indeed any kind of awareness or sentience. Again yet another serious misconception, many people, including those on the autism spectrum, think mostly in pictures with out the stimulus of thinking in words. Temple Grandin an animal scientist with autism thinks in pictures as the name of her book, Thinking In Pictures, suggests. She considers that most people with autism think in pictures. I am hesitant to make mention of Ms Grandin here as she designs methods of slaughter which she believes are humane. Although she has an obvious compassion and concern for animal welfare she seems rather resigned to the fact that animals will always be slaughtered for food and her "humane" methods of slaughter are her contribution to animal welfare. In my mind of course there can never be anything remotely humane, no matter the method, of taking the life of another creature or in any way detrimentally effecting the natural life of any animal under any circumstances. Nonetheless despite a difference of opinion here ms. Grandin does offer an interesting perspective upon animal thinking .Clearly not thinking in words does not imply lack of intelligence Ms. Grandin is considered to have savant capabilities.

I think in pictures, Words are like a second language to me... When I was a child and a teenager, I thought everybody thought in pictures. I had no idea that my thought processes were different.

Temple Grandin

In another of Ms Grandin'S books Animals in Translation she discusses Language-less people, and poses the question how do language-less people think?  There are most likely a significant number of language-less people, these are usually people who are deaf and have never had the opportunity to lean sign language or any method of communication.  To answer this question she refers to the book, A Man without words by Susan Schaller which describes her work with Ildefonso, a Mexican immigrant to the USA, who was a deaf mute who had neither knowledge of sign language nor any concept of language at all. He had also a deaf brother and as children the two of them had worked out their own way of communicating with each other. Without language Ildefonso could not readily grasp abstract concepts such as just and unjust. He was innocent, saw neither the good nor bad in people. Nonetheless he had grasped some idea of a religious concept, of some unseen greatness even though he did not have a perception of human justice. Interestingly language-less people seem to have a sense of religion.  However most importantly his story demonstrates that even without language he was an intelligent thinking being, aware, conscious sentient.

Ms Grandin makes the comparison to animal sentience and intelligence, that language is not a prerequisite to either intelligence or sentience. Animals do not need a language to think anymore than do language-less people. She says:

"But the important thing to realise is that  Ildefonso's innocence was  not the same thing as being stupid, or unable to think.  Ildefonso wasn't stupid, and he functioned as a person of normal intelligence and reasoning ability or even above average intelligence, given that he had been able to immigrate to a foreign country, find work , and mange his life while struggling with a huge disability."

This means when it comes to animals, we should not equate innocence with lack of intelligence.

Temple Grandin, Animals in Translation

Therefore it is obvious that lack of speech and or an inability to think in words does not denote lack of intelligence and or sentience.

This concept, the idea that not thinking in words is not a prerequisite for intelligence, is difficult for people to accept or so it seems for even within human society those of us without speech are perceived as less intelligent and are consequently seen as having less value. It is as though such people are not sentient or conscious on the same level as those with an higher intelligence, that is a higher intelligence according to the criteria of common consensus as to what constitutes intelligence, most notably the ability to speak or at least expresses ones self by its equivalent such as writing, or sign language or by facilitated speech. Many chimpanzees have been taught to use sign language and as a consequence people are more inclined to believe them to be sentient as opposed to a pig or a sheep.

If you look up the word in a dictionary the definition of sentient may seem vague and in one explanation you might read comments such as: sentience without knowledge does not mean that an animal is conscious. Here is the implication that knowledge equals intelligence and intelligence equals sentience, but whose knowledge, ours or other animals. Animals have knowledge of course but knowledge according to their kind, knowledge that is useful for them to survive and to live out their lives in the way they have evolved to do. So the meaning of sentience can be vague or downright confusing. 

Intelligence and communication abilities as we understand them are indicative of sentience but only a certain type of sentience. In my opinion lack of communication abilities or intelligence in the way we perceive intelligence need not necessarily imply lack of sentience, perhaps it is that we as human beings simply fail to perceive how other animals communicate and erroneously compare our type of intelligence with perhaps a different type of intelligence possessed by animals.

Animals communicate their needs to one another in order to live their lives in accordance with their own nature, did you know that lambs recognise the bleat of their own mother from amongst a cacophony of bleats that appear to us to be very similar? An animal does not need to engage his or her self in hours of mindless chatter which in humans more often than not serves little or no purpose. Did you know that there was a tribe of native Americans who only spoke when it was necessary for them to do so, they could not understand the white man's need to talk incessantly for no reason.

If we can teach animals to communicate in our way such as chimpanzee with sign language, in many cases we would realise that they are indeed intelligent. Yet these animals where just as intelligent before we taught them to speak, the problem is that we where not aware of it and judged them on the criterion of our ability.

The reputation of parrots as purveyors of a broad vocabulary is also reinforced with one study documenting how a grey parrot mastered 1,000 words and learnt to communicate in a manner that would shame some British adults. Parrots have an intellect comparable to a five-year-old human, and the conference will hear how potential parrot owners must weigh up buying one as if they were adopting a 'small child'.

Mark Townsend, environment correspondent The guardian
Sheep might be dumb but they are not stupid

After reading that many people will think Wow! that creature is intelligent, but wasn't the parrot intelligent before he could learn to speak. Speaking merely validates his intelligence, but only according to our criterion concerning the definition of intelligence.

Few species of animals can talk in the way some parrots are able but animals do "talk" or at least communicate, but in their own way. Did you know that chickens have more than 30 different calls, and the hen and her chicks communicate with one another while the chicks are still in their eggs. The calls that chickens make are used to express emotion, exchange information, warn of danger and so on, for example cockerels crow to indicate territorial boundaries, and assess other males. There are to name a few: mating calls, nesting and egg laying calls, calls of fear or alarm and warning calls such as distinct calls of alarm to warn of predators to which other chickens respond by taking cover or crouching low.

Perhaps we should also consider that their vocalisations convey a variety of nuances, possibly far more varied than we can perceive, messages communicating their needs and their emotional states. Such nuances may well be compared to for instance Chinese languages where the inflection conveys different meaning, with this consideration in mind the vocalisations of many creatures may be more complex that we think.

This idea is expressed by William Long In his book How Animals Talk cited earlier. Describing the calls of crows and how a simple haw of the crow as he acts as sentinel to alert members of his flock to possible danger, appears to convey different messages, he says:

Apparently therefore this simply haw of the crow is like a root word of certain ancient languages, the Chinese, for example which has several different intonations to express different ideas, but which all sound alike to foreign ears, and which are spelled alike when written in foreign print. To judge by the crows action, it is certain that their elementary haw as at least three distinct accents to express as many different meanings: one of "all's well," another of "watch out," and a third of "be off! " Moreover the birds seem to understand these different meanings as clearly as we understand plain English; they feed quietly while haw means one thing, or spring aloft when it means another; and though you may watch them for a lifetime you will see nothing to indicate that there is any doubt or confusion in their minds as to the sentinel's message.

Not only the crows, but the wild ducks as well, and the deer and the fox and many other creatures, seem to understand crow talk perfectly, or at least the part of it that concerns their own welfare...

It appears from recent research that sheep alter the timbre of their bleatings to vocalize stress.

Whist conducting research on animal communication Mark Feinstein professor of cognitive science at Hampshire College Massachusetts has developed a  method of measuring stress in sheep through recording and analyzing their vocal behaviour. He made the discovery that the vocal patterns of sheep change when they experience stress, for example when they become isolated from their flock or when ewes become separated from their lambs. He discovered that sheep have the ability to manipulate their vocal cords to produce a nuance of sounds to produce a variety of specific resonances according to their levels of stress; the level of stress in sheep can be assessed by the tone of their vocalisations.  Furthermore sheep can distinguish the bleats of their own lambs over great distances.

What differed in Feinstein's work from prior studies of sheep is that he investigated the full acoustic spectrum of each bleat, not just the basic pitch of a signal or the number of vocalizations an animal made. Looking at the fine-grained acoustic characteristics of individual signals, he found distinctive and consistent markers within waveforms that showed a statistical correlation with stressful conditions.

They suggest that sheep express stress (and possibly communicate it to other animals) by altering the timbre of their vocalizations, or the overall quality of sounds, rather than by changes in pitch or loudness over time. This ability is characteristic of human speech

Animal Communication: Bioacoustics Researcher Finds Sheep May Vocalize Stress

Farm animals communicate in ways that we have not observed, and indeed cannot be properly observed in the unnatural conditions of a factory farm, and our ignorance of these ways should not lead us to assume that farm animals do not communicate with each other. Communication is essential for social animals which herd or flock together such as sheep, pigs, poultry and cattle. In the wild communication with other members of the herd is essential for survival in order to be able to convey information about impending dangers, where food may be found and for teaching their young the things they need to know for their survival. For example pigs are naturally very social creatures and very vocal. In the wild pigs communicate by a variety of sounds including grunts, snarls snorts squeals, clacking of teeth and roars which although incomprehensible to ourselves convey much to members of the herd  A lactating sow uses a special kind of grunt which is only used to call her piglets to suckle. All farm animals have a call which indicates stress, the pig's squeal is the obvious call when they are afraid. Once my husband, son and I stopped at a tourist attraction near a free range pig farm, one of only two I have ever seen as most pigs are factory farmed. The pigs however where being moved in a lorry to another part of the farm, their squeals of fear where obvious to anyone who has any sensitivity.

Farm animals communicate their emotions such as distress, farmers know that a cow can call for days when her calf has been removed
Cows lament the loss of their calves for weeks as indeed is the case for Sheep:

When you wean lambs from ewes, both mothers and children cry for days.
Dr Keith Kendrick of the Babraham Institute, Cambridge.

While visiting Jervaulx abbey in the Yorkshire dales as we videoed a couple of inquisitive lambs who approached us, we where left in no doubt that the loud bleat from a ewe in the distance was a bleat which told the lambs to return to her. The lambs recognising the bleat of their mother from the cacophony of numerous other bleats responded immediately running to their mother who stood observing the entire situation.

Animals do communicate, although they have no language that we can understand we know that in addition to vocal calls communication involves posture, gestures, and odours. Farm animals use their senses of sight, hearing, touch and smell to send and receive messages to and from others. Also as suggested earlier animals often communicate on levels that we simply cannot observe or understand, between animals there is a kind of silent communication.

Animals can communicate quite well. And they do. And generally speaking, they are ignored.
Alice Walker

If an animal's not equipped to make sounds like talking, it doesn't mean it can't think. All we have to do is to figure out how to make it convey its thoughts.
Alice Hopf

Recently whilst walking in the lake district in Cumbria on a day when it rained in torrents my husband, son and I came across a Hardwick ewe and her tiny lamb. The ewe was lame and the lamb was bleating pitifully. When we arrived they stood by the gate which led into a field through which we intended to walk, their intent was obvious they wanted us to let them in. They approached us and stood looking at us as we opened the gate, in a way I cannot describe, it was just so obvious that they wanted us to hold the gate open for them to pass through. My son was in the first instance more perceptive to their silent communications. As sheep graze freely here in the mountains we where unsure that these two belonged in this field but it was so obvious that somehow or other they had got out of the field and wanted to return to the rest of the flock in this field which at least provided a little additional shelter as there were a couple of trees.

So we let them in but the mother and lamb became separated and it was quite a time before we could reunite them. All the time the rain poured relentlessly. As you will see in the video the  lamb was not very old, she was such a tiny creature clearly distressed by the misery of the cold and wet. They say that animals do not cry - whether this is true or not in the literal sense I cannot give you a reference but as you will read later elephants in fact do shed tears -  but the bleats of this little lamb sure sounded like crying, her distress at the relentless rain and temporarily loosing sight of her mother were unmistaken.

Tool Making
Tool making is yet another example of intelligence, at least from our human perspective. In the past it was thought that tool making was the prerogative of human beings. Certainly many animals with whom we are mostly familiar do not appear to use tools at all. Such animals include dogs, cats, cattle, pigs and sheep - at least not what we would normally consider as tools. Unless of course you consider the use of posts, rocks, seats, fences and gates which sheep utilize as back or bum scratchers as tools. Although of course not in the sense that a sheep has fashioned these things to use as a tool in the same way that humans have. Nonetheless it cannot be said that here sheep have not learnt how to use these things in their environment for this purpose, to relieve an itch. If we look at a simple and basic definition of tool we find the following definitions that we may use to include the sheep's use of things in their environment to perform a task, albeit a simple one. Surely if nothing else this shows ingenuity.

Definition of tool 4. Something used in the performance of an operation;. any object, skill, etc., used for a particular task or in a particular job: an instrument: tool - definition of tool by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia  ... any instrument of use or service. Brainy quote Definition of Tool

It cannot be denied that other animals do indeed use tools in the sense we consider tools, and moreover that some of these animals are capable of fashioning a tool for a specific purpose. It has been observed that chimps use stones to crack open nuts and to poke sticks into ant's nests to collect ants to feed upon. In the last example the tool here has been fashioned or adapted for a specific purpose and is not simply the result of a chance discovery that poking the stick down the hole produces ants which cling to the stick. Chimps have been observed to seek out a stick of suitable length, strip it of branches and leaves. Whether or not the chimp has sat and thought this through in his mind in the way we do or learnt how to do this by trail and error still does not detract from the fact that some animals do indeed use tools and to some small degree fashion such tools to their requirements.

But what about those animals that do not use tools such as pigs for example. This maybe true but lets consider that perhaps pigs do not need tools to be pigs. Tools as we perceive tools are not necessary for pigs to live their life in the way nature has evolved them to function. This does not mean that they are not intelligent, not sentient by indirectly implying lack of intelligence by their inability to use tools. Simply for his day to day existence a pig does not need tools, if he did he would have evolved to use them. Therefore consider that pigs, or sheep or poultry for that matter have simply not evolved in the direction of using tools, perhaps our interference may have prevented them from doing so. If given the opportunity animals have been observed to use tools such as the New Caledonian Crow. Below is a short extract from  National Geographic News: Crows Better at Tool Building Than Chimps, Study Says by John Pickrell

"...according to researchers in New Zealand, a crafty species of crow found on the remote Pacific islands of New Caledonia may prove that this trait isn't so uniquely human after all.

As the scientists detail in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides) have been able to add useful new features to the insect-snagging tools they fashion from leathery pieces of torn leaf. What's more, they say, these innovations are faithfully passed on between individuals and across generations.

"The ability to cumulatively improve tools is one of the features that define humanness. In fact this ability has been crucial for our technological progress," said co-author Gavin R. Hunt, at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. "Our findings therefore remove an important technological difference between humans and other animals," he said."

Please finish reading the complete article

Crows Better at Tool Building Than Chimps, Study Says

For more information and to view a video see:
Tool-making crows

It does not take a great leap of faith to consider it possible that others birds may well do the same.

Read an interesting article about animals who use tools:
Tool Using 
This article originates from : Stanford University website Stanford University

I have heard it said that dolphins could perhaps be even more intelligent than ourselves if only they had opposable thumbs so that they could use tools. The fact that this is not so does not imply that dolphins are not as intelligent as us, dolphins do not need tools, evolution has taken them in a different direction where tools as we understand tools are not necessary. We should not consider that we are at the pinnacle of evolution and that other creatures lag behind simply due to such differences, who knows perhaps in time other creatures will progress along different pathways to exceed us in ways wholly different and possibly superior upon levels that are beyond our ability to imagine.

I think that most people would agree that dolphins are highly intelligent creatures even if they do not use tools or language, at least language comparable to our own that we understand. For dolphins do indeed communicate with one another

The complexity of tool use and language is often seen as an indication of a general intelligence in a species. Why? Surely this consideration is only applicable to our species, the fact that most animals do not use tools in the way we do or speak in a complex system of language quite like us does not make them less intelligent or less sentient.

Therefore we should not set such store on either the use of tools or language as indicators of intelligence, after all such a criteria is not even valid in the assessment of intelligence in our species anyway.

We cannot judge the intelligence of other species by that of our own.

Moreover what is so important about intelligence in the assessment of sentience, our so called advanced intelligence has really not progressed us very far has it, at least not in terms of our continuing survival, if we consider the destruction of our environment which may bring us and myriads of other creatures whom we consider as inferior in intellect to the brink of extinction. No other animal has done that, does this make them less sentient? I rather think not.

To once again emphasize intelligence as we understand it is not necessary for sentience, moreover an animal may be fully capable of experiencing suffering even if his intellectual abilities are low, low according to our perspective.

In his book Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation Jeremy Bentham wrote about the treatment of animals:
The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but Can they suffer?

However for the sake of those who need examples of intelligence, cognition and ingenuity, there are many example of these attributes in farm animals.

Research shows us that farm animals have good memories, for example sheep can remember the faces of other members of their flock for two years and can tell individual humans apart. Sheep and goats can remember the position of food sources and learn to distinguish nutritious from unpalatable areas and know which plants have medicinal properties, chickens, cows and pigs also have good memories for faces and can distinguish between different humans. Chickens are able to learn tasks such as opening doors, navigating mazes and moreover with a speed usually only found in dogs or horses.

Most significantly tests have shown that farm animals can form mental images and can learn from one another and are aware of what another animal knows. Mother hens teach their chicks by using scratching, pecking signs to indicate what is the right sort of food and display signs of concern when they see chicks eating what they think is the wrong food. Hens can also learn from watching other hens perform a task. Observations of day old chicks reveal that they are capable of forming mental images. The chicks were set a task of finding an object they had imprinted on, when they could only see it through a small window in a barrier. They were able to keep the object that they were trying to reach in their minds when it went out of sight.

Pigs are generally recognised to be at least as good at problem-solving as dogs. In addition pigs are aware that another pig may have information that he does not have. Until recently this ability was only thought to exist in the great apes. Research by scientists at Bristol University have showed that if one pig amongst the group has been taught where to find food which has been hidden from the view of the other pigs, that the other pigs will notice that the pig has this knowledge and follow his lead rather than randomly search for food themselves. In short other pigs are aware that one of their herd has knowledge which they do not have. Even more interesting and indeed indicative of sentience and the ability to reason is the observation that the other pigs than steal the food from the Knowledgeable pig. In response the knowledgeable pig avoids going directly to the food when the non-informed pig is near in order to have time to eat some food before the other pig arrives.

It may appear that many farm animals do not possess these skills but don't lets forget that they are not in their natural environment; such skills would be essential for their survival in the wild .

Click the links below for examples of sentience in specific farm animals

Sheep Pigs Cattle Poultry Aquatic Animals

Sentience in Farm Animals Page Three
Expressions of sentience: emotions, awareness of others and self awareness, sixth sense