Belgian abattoirs hesitant towards boar taint vaccine

10-07-2009 | |

Slaughterhouses in Belgium are slightly hesitant towards the newly launched vaccine against boar taint in the European Union, the Flemish information centre for agri- and horticulture (VILT) reports.

In its daily newsletter, the Centre quotes delegated boardmember Thierry Smagghe of Febev, the Federation for Belgian Meat. The European Commission recently authorised the use of the vaccine, called Improvac, and manufactured and distributed by Pfizer Animal Health. The vaccine can be used as alternative to unanaesthesised piglet castration – and is intended to prevent boar taint.

German market
So far, it is unclear how the German meat market will respond to the introduction of the new vaccine. Smagghe said, “Since this country is our main market, we cannot use the product yet. Our export position may otherwise be in danger. In addition, our quality mark Certus does not yet accept animals, vaccinated with Improvac.”

He was also quoted to say that the use of the vaccine requires an adapted company management at producer level. In addition, slaughterhouse customers would not show much enthusiasm at the moment. “Many customers are hesitant towards this treatment as it is associated to hormone use, as eventually the testes development is halted. Only a few customers have not expressed objections against this product.”

Flemish trial
Febev does cooperate to a trial of the Flemish Institute for Research in Agriculture and Fishery (ILVO), together with a couple of slaughterhouses. “Based on these trials we shall draw conclusions and in the end perhaps review our position. Since trials like these have not taken place before in Belgium with Piétrain pigs before, it is way too early to draw any conclusions on meat quality and potential extra profits. We do not agree with figures, distributed by Pfizer on this. It is not sure that more will be paid for these animals.”

The practice of castration has been under severe pression for many years now by animal welfare organisations throughout Europe. In Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Norway, other alternatives to unanaesthesised castration were already discussed before the authorisation of the vaccine. The Belgian animal rights organisation Gaia has pressed the Flemish pig industry to start using the vaccine against boar taint as quickly as possible.

Pfizer Animal Health has marketed the vaccine in many other countries throughout the world. It was launched in Australia, about ten years ago, and ever since e.g. New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and Switzerland followed. Getting the vaccine accepted by the market is an aspect the animal health company usually repeatedly addresses.

In its communication, Pfizer repeats that the vaccine itself is not a hormone. The vaccine triggers a male pig’s immune system to produce antibodies against ‘gonadotrophin releasing factor’ (GnRF), which stimulates the development and function of the testes.

Related websites
• Pfizer Animal Health
• Flemish Information Centre for Agri- and Horticulture (VILT)
• Flemish Institute for Research in Agriculture and Fishery (ILVO)©
• Federation for Belgian Meat©
• European Union (EU)
• European Commission (EC)©