European Welfare Group Calls for Action on Pig Castration

EU - Disappointed what is sees as slow progress towards a ban on castration of male piglets, Eurogroup for Animals is calling for more action by the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and member states, starting at a workshop due to take place in Brussels this week.
calendar icon 24 February 2015
clock icon 4 minute read

The animal welfare campaign organisation, Eurogroup from Animals, is calling for more action to bring to an end the castration of male pigs without anaesthetic.

The group says male pigs are castrated for two main reasons: to prevent the risk of boar taint, an unpleasant flavour and smell which can be detected when the meat is cooked, and to minimise sexual aggressive behaviour.

It adds that surgical castration of pigs in the EU can still be lawfully performed without anaesthetics or pain-killing medication if carried out within the first seven days of the life of the piglet, which it says "raises major animal welfare concerns".

To address this problem, in 2010, the European Commission proposed the establishment of the 'European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs', a voluntary commitment by many stakeholders of the pork supply chain to abandon surgical castration by 1 January 2018.

As a first step, as of 1 January 2012, all pigs still undergoing surgical castration should have been provided with anaesthesia and/or prolonged analgesia.

According to a recent Eurogroup briefing document, there were "worrying signs" in the first Progress Report on the work of the signatories of the European Declaration, which was approved in December 2014.

It says: "In sum, four years down the line and with only three years to go before the 2018 milestone, we are still far from halfway towards the phasing out of surgical piglet castration."

The group says two alternatives are available:

  • rearing of entire boars, and
  • vaccination against boar taint.

Eurogroup for Animals says the phasing out of surgical piglet castration is among its main priorities.

While confirming it continues to cooperate with other stakeholders and DG SANTE towards the objectives of the European Declaration, it is calling for "a series of strong actions".

Among these is linked to a first workshop on the current state of play of the European Declaration, scheduled to take place in Brussels this week. The event involves international stakeholders from all sectors of the pig chain, researchers and EU Member State representatives.

Eurogroup for Animals is calling on the European Commission (DG SANTE) to draw up an action plan for 2015-2018 to reach the goals of the European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs as well as to allocate resources to support this goal and to update and maintain a dedicated web site.

From MEPs, it is asking Member States and the European Commission to take action to phase out piglet castration by 2018 and join the Joint Declaration on Animal Welfare.

Lastly, Eurogroup is calling on Member States to sign the European Declaration on the alternatives to surgical castration of pigs, get stakeholders in the pork chain more involved and sign the Joint Declaration on Animal Welfare.

The Joint Declaration on Animal Welfare was signed by Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands in December 2014. They “agreed to pool their activities aimed at improving animal welfare and urge EU member states and the European Commission to acknowledge the need for better regulation, better animal welfare and to promote awareness, EU-standards and knowledge”. Among its aims was to increase commitment to phasing out of piglet castration and other non-therapeutic mutilations.

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