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European Declaration: alternatives to pig castration

News Section Icon Published 16/12/2010

Compassion in World Farming is delighted that the European Commission and the Belgian Presidency of the European Council have published the European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs.

The European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs sets out the basis for the voluntary cooperation between all of the stakeholders who have signed the declaration.

The signatories include Danish Bacon & Meat Council, NVV (Dutch pig farmers organisation) and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe.

Compassion believes that all mutilations of farm animals are unacceptable and unnecessary.

Why are male pigs castrated?

The main reason why most male pigs in the EU are castrated is due to boar taint. Boar taint is the general term given to the odours released when cooking the meat from uncastrated pigs. Many consumers find these odours unpleasant.

Castration is also carried out to reduce mounting behaviour in sexually mature males.

However, castration is not commonly performed on pigs in the UK. The main farm assurance schemes in the UK, including Red Tractor, RSPCA Freedom Foods and the leading organic bodies, including the Soil Association, do not allow the practice. Since most UK pigs are slaughtered at an earlier age, before they reach their sexual maturity, boar taint is not a significant problem.

The declaration commits to:

  1. Abandon surgical castration of piglets by 1 January 2018

  2. Ensure that from 1 January 2012 surgical castration, if carried out, is only performed with prolonged analgesia and/or anaesthesia methods which are mutually recognised.

  3. Develop the following tools, with European funding, to ensure the end of surgical castration:

    • methods for the assessment of boar taint

    • reference methods for the measurement of each of the compounds responsible for boar taint

    • rapid detection of boar taint at slaughter plants

    • reduction of boar taint compounds by pig breeding and/or management and feeding

    • production systems and management of entire males

  4. Produce an annual report measuring the progress made in developing the tools shown in the point above

  5. Establish a European Partnership, supported and funded by the European Commission, to develop those tools and to find alternatives to the surgical castration of heavy pigs used for production of traditional products such as Parma ham, and for which immuno-castration, or the avoidance of castration is not possible yet.

  6. Share the costs for implementing the end of surgical castration between the economic actors of the pig meat chain

Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive of Compassion in World Farming, said:

"At present around 275,000 piglets are castrated each day in the EU.  In the majority of cases this painful mutilation is carried out without anaesthetic or pain relief.  Accordingly, we warmly welcome the commitment by the European pig industry to phase out the surgical castration of piglets by 2018 and, from 2012, to only carry out surgical castration with prolonged analgesia and/or anaesthesia."

Your food

You can generally be assured that the pig you eat was not castrated by purchasing UK pork. However, though buying UK pork means the pig was almost certainly not castrated, it does not guarantee that all aspects of welfare were good. For pork reared to higher welfare standards, look for RSPCA Freedom Food, outdoor reared, outdoor bred, free range or organic.

Read more about shopping compassionately >>


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