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Research article2016Peer reviewedOpen access

Pig castration: will the EU manage to ban pig castration by 2018?

De Briyne, Nancy; Berg, Lotta; Blaha, Thomas; Temple, Déborah


In 2010, the ‘European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs' was agreed. The Declaration stipulates that from January 1, 2012, surgical castration of pigs shall only be performed with prolonged analgesia and/or anaesthesia and from 2018 surgical castration of pigs should be phased out altogether. The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe together with the European Commission carried out an online survey via SurveyMonkey© to investigate the progress made in different European countries. This study provides descriptive information on the practice of piglet castration across 24 European countries. It gives also an overview on published literature regarding the practicability and effectiveness of the alternatives to surgical castration without anaesthesia/analgesia.

Forty usable survey responses from 24 countries were received. Besides Ireland, Portugal, Spain and United Kingdom, who have of history in producing entire males, 18 countries surgically castrate 80% or more of their male pig population. Overall, in 5% of the male pigs surgically castrated across the 24 European countries surveyed, castration is performed with anaesthesia and analgesia and 41% with analgesia (alone). Meloxicam, ketoprofen and flunixin were the most frequently used drugs for analgesia. Procaine was the most frequent local anaesthetic. The sedative azaperone was frequently mentioned even though it does not have analgesic properties. Half of the countries surveyed believed that the method of anaesthesia/analgesia applied is not practicable and effective. However, countries that have experience in using both anaesthesia and post-operative analgesics, such as Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and The Netherlands, found this method practical and effective. The estimated average percentage of immunocastrated pigs in the countries surveyed was 2.7% (median = 0.2%), where Belgium presented the highest estimated percentage of immunocastrated pigs (18%).

The deadlines of January 1, 2012, and of 2018 are far from being met. The opinions on the animal-welfare-conformity and the practicability of the alternatives to surgical castration without analgesia/anaesthesia and the alternatives to surgical castration are widely dispersed. Although countries using analgesia/anaesthesia routinely found this method practical and effective, only few countries seem to aim at meeting the deadline to phase out surgical castration completely.

Published in

Porcine Health Management
2016, Volume: 2, article number: 29
Publisher: BioMed Central

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Animal and Dairy Science

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