In pig farming, piglets are castrated very early (within the first week) – mostly without anaesthesia. This is extremely painful for the animals. The reason for the castration is to prevent the unpleasant boar taint in the meat and for easier handling of the animals. Boar taint occurs extremely rarely and only when the meat is heated. The affected meat can be sorted out at the slaughterhouse and processed cold, for example as sausage.
Cruelty to animals for cheap meat
The reason why it is not legally required for pig to be anesthetised during surgical castration, but dogs and cats do, is simply due to the costs of anaesthesia. Castrations without anaesthesia are allowed be carried out by the farmer themselves, whereas anaesthesia must (usually) be administered by a veterinarian. The veterinary costs saved by omitting anaesthesia make the production of cheap pork even more efficient – at the expense of the animals.
In Australia, surgical castration of piglets is not routinely done, but still permitted without anaesthesia or pain relief within the first days of life of the piglets.
There are some countries that do not or only to a certain percentage perform surgical castration of pigs and rather prefer keeping of intact males, like the UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, or Greece1.
There are alternatives
There are more animal-friendly and kinder alternatives such as boar fattening or immuno-castration (vaccination against boar taint), as well as genetic castration, all of which do not involve surgical castration. Surgery with general anaesthesia is also an acceptable alternative if castration cannot be avoided. Here, however, it is crucial that only the veterinarians are allowed to put this anaesthetic on. The pig industry is still lobbying for local anesthesia, which would be cheaper for farmers. However, this is not an alternative, as it is extremely painful for the animals and is not efficient in alleviating pain and distress.
Read more about the alternatives to non-anaesthetised piglet castration.