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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Exploratory Survey on European Consumer and Stakeholder Attitudes towards Alternatives for Surgical Castration of Piglets

Aluwe, Marijke; Heyrman, Evert; Almeida, Joao M.; Babol, Jakub; Battacone, Gianni; Citek, Jaroslav; Font i Furnols, Maria; Getya, Andriy; Karolyi, Danijel; Kostyra, Eliza; Kress, Kevin; Kusec, Goran; Moerlein, Daniel; Semenova, Anastasia; Skrlep, Martin; Stoyanchev, Todor; Tomasevic, Igor; Tudoreanu, Liliana; Van Son, Maren; Zakowska-Biemans, Sylwia;
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Simple SummaryIn many countries, surgical castration of piglets without pain relief or anaesthesia is still common practice. Castration is performed to minimise the incidence of boar taint, a bad taste (urine/fecal like), typically present in the meat of 5 to 10% of uncastrated male pigs. It also helps to avoid aggressive and sexual behaviour. For animal welfare reasons, alternatives are being considered, and in some countries, an alternative is already practiced. One option is to perform surgical castration with anaesthesia and relieve pain. A second option is to produce male pigs without castration, which requires detection of tainted carcasses in the slaughter house. A third option is to apply immunocastration: by a two-fold injection of a vaccine, the testes function is inhibited, which reduces boar-like behaviour and avoids boar taint. In this study, we evaluated the acceptability of each of these methods in 16 countries in Europe. Of the 4 presented options, the practice of surgical castration was least accepted (32%), whilst there was a high acceptance of castration with anaesthesia (85%), followed by immunocastration (71%) and production of boars (49%). The developed questionnaire and infographic can be used in future studies to further gain insights in consumer and stakeholder attitudes on this topic.Surgical castration of piglets without pain relief is still common practice in many countries. Possible alternatives for surgical castration are application of pain relief or anaesthesia or production of boars (entire males) and immunocastrates. Each of these alternatives faces advantages and disadvantages which may result in different citizen attitudes and consumers acceptability. Understanding which practice is acceptable to whom and why may further stimulate implementation. Consumer (n = 3251) and stakeholder (n = 1027) attitudes towards surgical castration without pain relief, surgical castration with anaesthesia, immunocastration, and production of boars were surveyed from April to June 2020 via an online questionnaire in 16 countries (>175 respondents per country). Surgical castration without pain relief was separated from each of the alternatives due to animal welfare and showed the lowest acceptability (32%). Within the alternatives, a further partitioning between the alternatives was based on perceived quality and food safety, with an acceptance of 85% for applying anaesthesia, 71% for immunocastration, and 49% for boar production. Differences depending on professional involvement and familiarity with agriculture could be observed, mainly for the acceptance of surgical castration without anaesthesia, immunocastration, and boars. Castration with anaesthesia was highly accepted by all types of respondents.


acceptability; boar production; immunocastration; anaesthesia; analgesia; online questionnaire; cluster analysis; infographic

Published in

2020, Volume: 10, number: 10, article number: 1758
Publisher: MDPI