The campaign against castration
ANIMAL WELFARE organisations across Europe have been arguing for decades that physical castration should be outlawed. Some countries led the way early on. As long ago as 2009, Norway banned surgical castration outright and, in 2010, Switzerland banned surgical castration without anaesthesia.
In 2010, a European Commission-led initiative brought together farmers, meat industry representatives, scientists, veterinarians and animal welfare groups to discuss ending castration. They signed the European Declaration on Alternatives to Surgical Castration of Pigs. This contained two key target dates: from 1 January 2012, surgical castration should only be performed with prolonged analgesia and/ or anaesthesia. The long-term goal was that the practice of surgical castration should stop completely by 1 January 2018. The deadline has been extended further, to the end of this year.
The big drawback was that this was a voluntary agreement and many countries have chosen to ignore it. Germany has declared that from 1 January 2019 no pigs may be castrated without being anesthetised. In Sweden, 100% of boars are now castrated with both analgesia and anaesthesia. Analgesia is used in a high percentage of castrations in other countries, such as in Austria and Finland (99%) and Denmark (95%).
Figures for the UK and Ireland show that between 98% (UK) and 100% (Ireland) of boars in the large-scale commercial industry that are slaughtered are entire, but the statistics do not take into account smaller producers.
A number of countries are starting to explore immunocastration — vaccinating young boars with Improvac, which effectively delays puberty, removing the risk of boar taint. The vaccine is now licensed for use in 60 countries, including the European Union. In next month’s
Country Smallholding, I will look at how the vaccine works and talk to those who have been using it successfully.