Call to end castration of pigs without anaesthesia

Alyn Smith, SNP member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee and Honorary Vice President of the Scottish SPCA, has today called for the European Commission to take firm measures to eradicate the practice of castrating male pigs without anaesthesia in the EU.

It has been scientifically proven, using pyschological and ethological parameters, that surgical castration is a painful intervention even when performed on very young animals.

Scottish farmers have long been compliant with rules to stop castration without anaesthesia, and alternative methods to avoid boar taint in pork have been successfully introduced, thereby removing the need to castrate at all.

The European Commission has publically accepted the fact that despite voluntary declarations at both European and Member State level, almost all other EU Member States practice castration without anaesthesia. However, the Commission has also stated that it will not take any firm steps to put in place a ban on this cruel practice in the foreseeable future.

Alyn commented:

"Since I was first elected in 2004, the Commission has stuck firmly to the line that voluntary measures are the way to reduce the prevalence of pig castration without anaesthesia, and despite all manner of good efforts, I have not seen any great changes.

"Castration without anaesthesia is a brutal practice and I do not believe that it sits well with the welfare concerns of the majority of Scottish consumers either. The EU prides itself on being an animal welfare friendly area yet we are not practicing what we preach. To make matters worse, castration as a procedure is less and less necessary as alternatives to reduce boar taint and aggression have come on leaps and bounds in recent years.

"Enough time has passed for us to see that voluntary methods are not working. I have today written to the Commission insisting that they put in place a ban on this at the earliest instance. In the meantime, the only way for consumers to avoid buying pork products that have come from pigs castrated without anaesthesia is by making sure that you buy Scottish pork wherever possible."