Pig castration: methods of anaesthesia and analgesia for all pigs and other alternatives for pigs used in traditional products

    Project Details


    Main research question/goal
    To get an overview of the current state of affairs of the alternatives for castration of male piglets without pain relief and to evaluate the alternatives, DG SANTE (Directorate General for Health and Food Safety, European Commission) funded the CASTRUM project. The aim is to evaluate the application of anaesthesia and analgesia and the production of intact boars and immunocastrates in terms of animal welfare, meat quality, and practical and economic feasibility. The focus within the project was on the production systems linked to the production of traditional meat products, but the findings are also relevant to conventional production.


    ILVO worked together in this project with partners from Italy (coordinator: University of Bologna;  CREA), France (IFIP), Slovenia (KIS), Norway (Norwegian Meat and Poultry Research Center) and Germany (MLU).

    Research approach
    The study was conducted on the basis of a literature study and a survey of stakeholders in 17 European countries. The survey gathered information about the current application of alternatives and stakeholders' attitude to these alternatives.

    The CASTRUM results confirm that practice of alternatives for surgical castration and the choice for a specific alternative varies widely between countries. Even within a country, different alternatives are being used. In northern Europe and Switzerland, application of the combination of anesthesia and pain relief at castration are mainly used. In western Europe, various countries have started with the production of intact boars. In Belgium, besides producing intact boars, immunocastrates are also being raised. Most quality programs require pain control in case of surgical castration. In eastern and southern Europe, alternatives are seldom used. The use of intact boars was considered difficult or impossible by the majority of respondents because of mandatory specifications, (small) risk of boar taint and the lack of a detection method, abnormal behavior, and certain product characteristics that could lead to increased perception of boar taint and the quality of the meat. With production of heavier pigs for traditional meat products, production of intact boars is even less attractive to the respondents. The production of intact boars is hindered mainly by boar taint and lower meat quality. Although immunocastration can avoid a large part of these disadvantages, market acceptance of immunocastration still seems to be the main inhibitory factor.

    Funding provider(s)
    Effective start/end date1/01/1631/12/16