A review of the welfare consequences of surgical castration in piglets and the evaluation of non-surgical methods
Male piglets are castrated primarily to prevent the unpleasant odours and flavours of entire male pig meat (boar-taint). Although castration can be legally performed without analgesia in the first seven days of life, available evidence shows that castration at any age is painful and may have a detrimental influence on health. Few anaesthetics or analgesics are licensed for use in piglets. The known methods for general and epidural anaesthesia cannot be run at the farm level for practical and/or legal reasons. Use of the local anaesthetic lidocaine is easy and allows the pain resulting from castration to be alleviated. Local destruction of testicular tissue by intra-testicular injection of chemical compounds (salts and acids) is an alternative to surgical castration but needs further investigation regarding welfare improvement and boar taint reduction. Immunocastration, by which castration is achieved using active immunisation (anti–GnRH immunisation) is an efficient alternative to surgical castration; however, there are no licensed vaccines in the EU and the consequences, in terms of pig welfare as well as its acceptability among EU consumers, need further evaluation.
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