EU report on alternatives to pig castration

The European Declaration on Alternatives to Surgical Castration of Pigs works towards ending the practice of castration. The voluntary Declaration was signed by meat industry, retailers, scientists, veterinarians and animal welfare NGOs in 2010. Following the Declaration, the European Commission commissioned a study on ‘Establishing best practices on the production, the processing and the marketing of meat from uncastrated pigs or pigs vaccinated against boar taint’. A team of experts, including Dr Heleen van de Weerd, conducted research in a selection of (representative) EU Member States and described the different practices utilised by the industry. The report can be downloaded here.

The research highlights best practices at different points in the supply chain:

  • Farm: reduce boar taint in entire males through management techniques on farm; vaccinate pigs against boar taint, and provide assurance to slaughterhouses that vaccinated pigs do not present detectable boar taint.
  • Slaughterhouse: detect boar taint, quantify and manage positive carcasses; obtain assurance from farmers that vaccinated pigs do not contain detectable boar taint, and deal with meat with detectable boar taint.
  • Retail and food service: increase the market value of meat from uncastrated pigs, and promote meat from vaccinated pigs.

These individual practices provide a compelling portfolio of options for supply chains seeking to transition away from surgical castration. The report also shows that successful changes have occurred through exchange of good practices, data sharing, and agreements on how to share the costs and the benefits of changes to the mode of production.