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Is This the End of Castration?

by 5m Editor
8 May 2009, at 8:24am

DENMARK - Castration of pigs without anaesthetic will not be banned in the EU in the foreseeable future. However, more animal welfare-friendly alternatives will be seen further down the road and then castration will, in all likelihood, be forbidden in all EU countries.

Castration of male pigs will not be banned in all EU countries in the near future. That is the overall conclusion of the EU project PIGCAS that has investigated attitudes to castrating pigs without anaesthetic and to using alternative methods in relevant European organisations.


The PIGCAS project has investigated attitudes to various methods of castration in Europe. [Photo: Janne Hansen ]

The results of the project will be used to support a welfare policy regarding castration and alternative methods in the EU. The results show that production of entire male meat and production of female pigs using sex-sorted semen are expected to take hold and become welfare-friendly alternatives to present methods in most EU countries. However, these solutions need more research and development before being implemented.

The project, whose Danish contact is the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Aarhus University, gathered information from relevant European stakeholder organisations regarding their attitudes to castration without anaesthetic and to alternative methods.

"In general, despite different attitudes, all stakeholder organisations in the survey agree that animal welfare is important," says senior scientist Laurits Lydehøj Hansen from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences.

"Most of the organisations are willing to change castration practice as long as their position in the market is not threatened, in particular with regard to meat quality," he says.

At present, there are no viable alternatives to castration without anaesthetic in most EU countries. Anaesthetic prior to castration and immunocastration can, however, be temporary solutions.

The recommendations of the report are as follows:

  • Total abolishment of castration without anaesthetic is not feasible at the present but should be the goal in the long run.

  • Castration without anaesthetic should not be banned until an alternative method is found that is technically and economically feasible and actually improves animal welfare. The same goes for legal requirements for anaesthetic and pain relief.

  • If the immunocastration vaccine is permitted in the EU and is acceptable to EU citizens, then this method can provide a temporary solution.

  • All methods should be considered individually and an EU approval list should be prepared.

  • Meat with boar taint is unacceptable. Therefore, market demands should determine what is acceptable with regard to male pig production and trade barriers must not be allowed to hinder selling male pork in any EU country.

  • Market demands are the best route to promoting more welfare-friendly practices.