While The Someone Project will encompass several species of farm animals, pigs are likely to be one of the prime subjects, given the breadth of past studies of their intelligence and behavior. Some researchers say pigs' cognitive abilities are superior to 3-year-old children, as well as to dogs and cats.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has a section on its website entitled "The Hidden Lives of Pigs" which depicts them as social, playful and protective animals with a vocabulary of more than 20 different oinks, grunts and squeaks.
"Pigs are known to dream, recognize their own names, learn tricks like sitting for a treat, and lead social lives of a complexity previously observed only in primates," the website says. "Like humans, pigs enjoy listening to music, playing with soccer balls, and getting massages."
The website recounts news stories of pigs saving the lives of imperiled humans and saving themselves by jumping off trucks bound for slaughterhouses.
Treatment of pigs has been a political issue in several states due to efforts to pass laws banning the confinement of breeding pigs in gestation crates.
Friedrich said he makes the most headway with state legislators on this issue when he argues that pigs are more cognitively and emotionally advanced than dogs or cats.
"They would recoil in horror if dogs and cats were subjected to the same conditions," he said.
Bob Martin, a food systems expert at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said he developed an appreciation of pigs' emotional complexity while serving recently as executive director of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production.
"Pigs in gestation crates show a lot of signs of depression," he said. "When I went to a farm operation in Iowa where pigs were not confined, they came running up to greet the farmer like they were dogs. They wanted to interact with him."