Can pig welfare be promoted through TikTok?

13-11-2023 | |
Monique Pairis-Garcia Associate professor and veterinarian, North Carolina State University, USA
Photo: Canva
Photo: Canva

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Swine health and welfare expert Dr Monique Pairis-Garcia is excited to see more members of the pig industry take on new opportunities to engage the general public, using social media and platforms like TikTok.

Compared with the European approach of regulating animal welfare through law and legislation, the United States animal welfare movement is primarily driven by market access and demand. Poor public perception and consumer concerns regarding how pigs are raised and taken care of on farm has resulted in a significant shift in policy, both at the farm and in the grocery store. For many companies, animal welfare has become a top priority and a key pillar of sustainability in their system, resulting in significant investment into changing the way pigs are managed and raised.

@cara.haden #water #bar #drink ♬ original sound – Cara Haden Pig Vet

TikTok as a tool to spread the truth

But how do we know if the general public’s concerns are valid? Given less than 2% of the US population is actively engaged with agriculture, finding reliable and objective information to answer such concerns can be challenging. In response to this, one swine veterinarian has stepped out of the box when it comes to public engagement and education and has turned to TikTok as a tool to spread the truth about pig farming in the US.

Frustrated by constant negative media

Dr Cara Haden, also known as TikTok’s “Pig Vet”, is a swine veterinarian with Pipestone Veterinary Services in the Midwest. She started her TikTok journey in 2020 as a way to share her story about pig farming in the US. Dr Haden grew up in Michigan on a family farrow-to-finish swine farm and has always had an interest in swine medicine and welfare. She became frustrated by the constant negative media surrounding the swine industry and wanted to do something about it. Instead of focusing on more traditional routes of communication, Dr Haden took the leap and signed on.

Educating the general public

Her TikTok clips film everyday tasks that you would typically see on a swine farm, and she focuses primarily on providing more context and information surrounding pig care and management. Although she still gets a fair share of negative feedback, Dr Haden has made a significant mark in educating the general public on pig production and has helped demystify some of the concerns of commercial swine production. Given the biosecurity challenges of allowing the general public onto a farm, accounts like the “Pig Vet” allow general consumers to take a tour of a swine farm and gain a deeper understanding of how pigs are raised.

As our society continues to digitise, I am excited to see more members of our industry take on new opportunities to engage the general public using social media and platforms like TikTok to share ideas, discuss challenges and open up the lines of communication in this ever-expanding global swine industry.