Examining Alternatives to Painful Piglet Castration within the Contexts of Markets and Stakeholders: A Comparison of Four EU Countries

Lin-Schilstra, Li; Ingenbleek, Paul T.M.


To avoid the occurrence of boar taint in pork, the castration of piglets without pain relief is a common practice in many European countries. The public has been calling for more animal-friendly alternatives, which include anesthesia/analgesia, immunocastration, and the raising of entire males. To prevent potential trade barriers, the European Commission was initially more in favour of a single method. To date, however, only six countries have passed laws banning castration, and the pig farmers in these countries have chosen different alternatives. To understand the reasons behind the continuing fragmentation, this study examines the issue of castration within the context of four national pork production systems: in the Netherlands, France, Slovenia, and Germany. Drawing on in-depth qualitative data, the study demonstrates that stakeholders are generally willing to abandon the practice of piglet castration without anesthesia/analgesia. Their preferences for alternatives are largely dependent on contextual factors, however, including the structure, scale, and cost and quality orientation of the production system. The results imply that, although a single solution for castration is unlikely to evolve amongst the diverse pork-production systems in Europe, a future without the painful castration of piglets is possible if alternatives are accepted to coexist.