Surgical Castration of Piglets: GAIA Launches a New Campaign

Surgical Castration of Piglets: GAIA Launches a New Campaign

GAIA action
16 November 2018

Images so shocking they had to be "pig-xellised"

In November 2018, the animal welfare organization GAIA has launched a new campaign calling for a ban on surgical castration of piglets. It has broadcast a TV spot on French-language channels (RTL-TVI) as well as Flemish TV (Een and VTM) from November 16th to 29th. "We’ve heard enough excuses, and we’re tired of procrastination. It has been years that the political world and pig breeders’ organisations have been promising the end of this painful practice," laments Michel Vandenbosch, the president of GAIA. "But as long as there is nothing concrete, we will continue our campaign!" A proposal for a ban in Wallonia has been awaiting parliamentary debate and a vote for months now, and GAIA wonders how much longer this stalling game will continue.

The goal behind this new TV spot is clear: to remind the public that surgical castration is a very painful practice for piglets. The screaming of the young animals is clearly heard as the breeder extracts the testicles and cuts the seminal cords, all without any anaesthesia. What’s more, the procedure takes place under the eyes of the piglets’ mother... "The images are so shocking that we had to 'pig-xellise' them," explains Michel Vandenbosch.

Boar taint

GAIA hopes that its new campaign will lead to some concrete progress in Wallonia. Adoption of a ban would be in line with the opinion of 85% of Walloons, who think that surgical castration of piglets should be prohibited. Fortunately, some deputies have heeded the cries of the animals and the appeal of the population: a proposal for a decree for a ban has already been drafted by Josy Arens (cdH) and co-signed by Véronique Waroux (cdH), Christine Defraigne (MR), Virginie Gonzales (PS) and André-Pierre Puget (JEXISTE). Thus, representatives of practically all political parties in Wallonia are in favour of ending the suffering of piglets. "All that remains is to vote on the proposal, so why hasn’t the text been put on the agenda of the Walloon Parliament?" wonders GAIA.

So, what exactly is involved in the castration of piglets? Concretely, the operator grasps the young animal, immobilizes it, and incises the skin of the scrotum with a blade. He then extracts the testicles with the fingers and cuts the seminal cord. The piglet is finally returned to its enclosure, without the wound being closed. This procedure is applied because, in a minority of cases, an unpleasant odour is emitted when cooking meat from uncastrated pigs (known as boar taint). Although only a small proportion of consumers are sensitive to this smell, in order to avoid any risk of boar taint, about four million piglets are castrated without anaesthesia each year in Belgium, despite the traumatic and painful nature of the procedure.

Two viable alternatives

For almost 20 years, GAIA has been calling for a legal ban on this practice, and the industry has been promising for years to end it, but as yet there is still no sign of any ban being adopted. A few years ago, the European pig farming sector met to discuss the issue of surgical castration, with the support of the European Commission. This resulted in a text of intent, providing for the end of the practice by January 1, 2018. Called the "Brussels Declaration on Alternatives to Surgical Castration of Pigs," this text was nothing more than a voluntary commitment, without the force of law. Unsurprisingly, it is far from being respected throughout the industry. There are, however, two viable alternatives to the cruel practice of surgical castration: leave the pigs whole and detect the possible smell later, or administer a vaccine, which prevents the testicular growth of pigs. In 2009, this vaccine received the green light from the European Commission. In addition, many supermarket chains have already changed their purchasing policy, buying only meat from pigs that have not undergone surgical castration. So, there is no reason to continue to obstruct a ban.

Read more news about:

Pour une interdiction de la castration chirurgicale des porcelets en Wallonie et dans l'UE

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