Castration of piglets without anaesthesia in EU Member States

8 April 2013    
Ismail Ertug (S&D)


Council Directive 2008/120/EC permits procedures intended as an intervention for therapeutic, identification or diagnostic purposes. The only exception is the castration of male piglets less than seven days old without anaesthetic and the castration of piglets more than seven days old with anaesthetic. Although this provision is conditional upon the castration being carried out by means other than the tearing of tissues, animal protection bodies frequently complain that use of this method is also still widespread.

Although there are numerous voluntary declarations at both European and national level promoting alternative methods for avoiding boar taint, piglets are still castrated without anaesthetic in almost all Member States. This practice continues, although some Member States, such as the United Kingdom and Ireland, use other methods successfully, and piglets are no longer castrated there.

Does the Commission have any figures showing how reliably the industry has fulfilled its promise only to carry out castration with anaesthesia from 1 January 2012 onwards?

As things currently stand, is the full implementation of the agreement not to carry out any more castrations from 2018 onwards realistic?

Is the Commission considering revising Directive 2008/120/EC if the industry does not fulfil the voluntary agreements?

30 May 2013    
Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission

The EU legislation on the protection of pigs, Directive 2008/120/EC(1), allows the surgical castration of male piglets before seven days of age by a trained person.

Currently, the Commission does not have a complete overview of the Member States where surgical castration is done with anaesthesia and/or analgesia.

The European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs(2) sets out a series of EU activities necessary to develop the mechanisms which will bring to an end the surgical castration at European level by 1 January 2018. It is a voluntary commitment of the main actors of the pig sector and it is not legally binding. In the Declaration, it is clear that the feasibility of all alternatives to replace surgical castration will be further studied. For this reason the Commission launched several studies in 2012 to support the phasing out of castration.

The Commission currently is not considering any amendment of Directive 2008/120/EC.

(1)    Council Directive 2008/120/EC laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs; OJ L47,18.12.2008.