Alternatives to surgical castration of pigs

Surgical castration, practiced for centuries to remove an unpleasant odor from pork and to prevent undesirable sexual and aggressive behaviour in pigs, has become a significant animal welfare concern in recent years. Research has proven that this surgical procedure inflicts pain, even on very young pigs.

Up until now, producers have had little choice but to castrate pigs in order to remove distasteful “boar taint,” which would make pork meat unpalatable to consumers. With changing social values, however, many consumers have called for pigs to be treated with less painful and invasive practices. In response to these growing concerns, several main players within the pig and pork industry have agreed to a plan to voluntarily end the practice of surgically castrating pigs in the EU by 1 January 2018.

Recent breakthroughs have identified a variety of non-surgical castration methods that not only cause less pain, but also result in pigs making more efficient use of feed, which benefits the environment. Read more

Currently there are two different alternatives to surgical castration of pigs: 

Partnership

The European Partnership on Pig Castration is being formed to develop methods to phase out the surgical castration of pigs by 2018, and to make sure that costs of transition are shared in a fair way. Because this transition may involve the use of different methods throughout the EU, this could affect the functioning of the EU Market. Therefore, baseline methods for detecting boar taint will be developed to prevent the pork trade from being disrupted. 

Implementation

As a first step to improve the welfare of animals from 1 January 2012, surgical castration of pigs shall be performed with prolonged analgesia and/or anaesthesia. 

  • Castration with analgesia and/or anaesthesia;

  • Please find information on the implementation here;
  • Please find information on ongoing research here

Events

  • 12.09.2012 - Please note that the meeting Alternatives to surgical castration of pigs: Main Actions of the European Partnership - organised by the European Commission – has changed the date for 17 December 2012.
  • 30.11 - 1.12.2011 - Boars heading for 2018. The meeting aims to develop and work together to meet the European declaration on Pig Castration 2018. Please find more details here.
  • 25.02.2011 - Meeting of the European Partnership on Pig Castration. Please find more details here.