A new survey indicates slow progress towards the agreed ban on surgical castration in Europe by 2018.
A recent survey of veterinarians from 25 countries conducted by the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) reveals that progress toward Europe’s proposed ban on the surgical castration of pigs is running well behind schedule.
Signed in 2010, the European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs aimed to improve animal welfare by ending surgical castration without prolonged analgesia and/or anesthesia by January 2012, with the goal of abandoning surgical castration altogether by 2018. According to the report, the first deadline has largely been missed and time is fast running out to achieve the primary goal.
Use of pain relief and anesthesia for piglet castration
“We are still far from all castrated piglets being treated with prolonged analgesia and/or anesthesia,” the report states. This was an interim aim that had been expected to come into force in January 2012.
FVA highlights that the methods used are not mutually recognized in different countries, and that pain relief alone, as used in many countries, does not sufficiently alleviate the pain and stress involved in piglet castration.
Phasing out of surgical castration by 2018?
In most countries, male pigs are still surgically castrated, the survey revealed. Only in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Spain are less than 20% of male pigs castrated. In Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands, the proportion of entire males is reported to be rising and is now between 20 and 80%. Also reporting proportionally more entire male pigs are Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Portugal and Switzerland.
Although the European Declaration aimed to phase out surgical castration of pigs by 2018, the survey showed that “few countries have an official deadline to meet this goal apart from Germany.”
Immunocastration, as one of the best methods from the point of view of animal welfare, deserves more serious consideration, according to the FVE report. It has been licensed in Europe since 2009 but is not widely used in the region currently.
In its conclusions, FVE comments on the difficult market conditions for the pork sector in Europe recently, with a prolonged period of low producer prices accompanied by increasing consumer demands regarding animal welfare and sustainable farming.
“A more sustainable method to farm pigs has to be found, both from the perspective of the animals and the farmer, in order that farmers can raise pigs in a sustainable and welfare-friendly way and get a fair price for the meat produced,” FVE concludes. “Taking away the pain and stress associated with pig castration is in this way connected to the future of the European pig sector.”
For more on this topic, see Stopping piglet castration, for good