Piglet castration is “barbaric” and should be banned, says pig breeder

GUEST BLOG BY LIZ SHANKLAND, http://pigsinwales.blogspot.com/

Castration of piglets, carried out to prevent boar taint – the unpleasant odour supposedly emanating from meat that comes from uncastrated boars – is barbaric, says pig breeder Liz Shankland.

Castration is carried out without anaesthetic, often with a pen knife, and the piglet is left to heal itself.

Liz, author of the Haynes Pig Manual, was responding to my earlier post about an animal welfare group that nominated tomorrow (Friday) as Let It Hang day. Men were being urged to go without underwear in solidarity with the millions of piglets the group says are unnecessarily castrated.

Liz writes: “Boar taint is a controversial issue among pig breeders. It’s like the tail docking issue in the dog world. There is a lot of misinformation about it, largely spread by butchers.
Most commercial breeders in the UK and many other parts of the world will castrate at about three days old. This is for two reasons: first, it allows for boars to be grown on for longer without becoming too aggressive or boisterous; second, because of the risk of boar taint.

Boar taint is produced as the boar reaches puberty. It acts as a sex pheremone which helps make the female pig receptive. Diet, environment and cleanliness can influence its production. Not all boars produce tainted meat and not everyone can detect it. I’ve only found it once, in a batch of fast-growing commercial cross-bred pigs that I reared – never in traditional breeds, which are naturally slower to mature.

I sell boar pigs to people to raise for meat all the time, and I also sell pork from boars I have raised myself. I have never had any complaints.
I have friends who castrate, but most don’t. Several countries have banned the practice and the EU is working towards a total ban, starting with a ban on castrating without anaesthesia from January 2012, and progressing to a total ban by 2018. How this will be policed is anyone’s guess. No-one can tell what goes on behind the barn door, and there will be absolutely no way of determining at slaughter whether an anaesthetic was used or not. Of course, when the complete ban comes in, Meat Hygiene Service vets on duty at abattoirs will be able to tell on inspection of the carcass, but that’s still a long way off….”

Links to Liz:


Link to Haynes Pig Manual: http://www.haynes.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Bookfeature_PigManualView?new=Y&storeId=10001&catalogId=10001

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One thought on “Piglet castration is “barbaric” and should be banned, says pig breeder

  1. Michael LaRocca says:

    I’ve done it, but I was never very good at it. Two slices with a knife, pull out the testicles, squirt with a bottle of iodine, grab the next piglet. We were always told it was necessary because of boar taint, so that’s what we did. If it’s not true about boar taint, well, I’d have to oppose castration for both humanitarian and economic reasons. (Yep, I say “humanitarian” when talking about non-humans.) I love it when the ethical and the fiscal both recommend the same thing. That oughta be enough to make it reality.

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