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EU: Castration without anaesthesia still common

Less than a year before its own deadline, the pig industry in the European Union is still widely castrating without anaesthesia.

Several years ago, the European pig industry voluntarily opted to stop castration by 1 January 2018. Against the background of that ‘European declaration’, the directorate-general for Health and Food Safety (DG Santé) of the European Commission has commissioned a study to examine the state of play in the various European countries.

Heterogenous situations in EU exist

In their conclusion, the report stated: “Despite the release of the voluntary initiative to stop surgical castration of piglets as practiced today (European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs) in 2010, very heterogeneous situations in EU continue to exist and there seem to be a big difference between different parts of Europe regarding the societal sensibility to the problem as well as willingness of stakeholders to discuss the issue.

“Prior to ending of this widespread traditional practice in pig husbandry, a lot of potential problems need to be addressed in view of the adaptation of pig sector which were depicted in the European Declaration.”

Castration without the use of anaesthetics should be on its way out in the European Union, but it proves to be a struggle to find alternatives. Photo: Mark Pasveer
Castration without the use of anaesthetics should be on its way out in the European Union, but it proves to be a struggle to find alternatives. Photo: Mark Pasveer

Methods for anaesthesia and analgesia

The survey was executed by the so-called Castrum Consortium. The study focused in particular on the methods for anaesthesia and/or prolonged analgesia and on alternatives to surgical castration for heavier pigs used for special traditional pork products.

In most countries, differences are also great when it comes to the use of different anaesthesia methods and tools.

The effect of castration on special pork products

Castrum examined the effect of castration on the production of special traditional products. They often are produced from older and heavier pigs with an increasing risk on boar taint.

The Castrum consortium conducted the research in the following 16 countries.

• Portugal

• Spain

• Italy

• France

• UK

• Belgium

• Germany

• Austria

• Denmark

• Norway

• Sweden

• Poland

• Hungary

• Slovenia

• Croatia

• Bulgaria

In addition, information was collected from other countries such as Finland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

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