Cutting and/or tearing of tissue (scrotum and spermatic cords) are known to induce acute pain and stress and evidence exists that pain-related endocrine and behavioral alterations may persist until 4 days after castration. For that reason it is not surprising that
animal welfare organizations are increasing the pressure on pig producers and stakeholders to ban castration without anesthesia and to encourage the development of more acceptable and welfare-orientated production systems.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) believes that castration is a painful surgical procedure and should be performed as early as possible, preferably with analgesia and anesthesia by 14 days of age. After 14 days of age, swine should be castrated using analgesia and/or anesthesia. Pain management should be implemented for any animal showing signs of pain after the procedure.
They also continue to encourage the development and implementation of practical analgesic and anesthetic protocols for, and alternatives to, swine castration.
The American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) current policy on pig castration can be viewed as striking a balance between animal welfare and the need to efficiently produce quality pork (AMVA, 2012). This group acknowledges that castration helps control aggressive behavior in pigs and recommends that the procedure be performed at least 5 days prior to weaning to allow for sufficient healing before pigs are removed from the sow. The group’s policy also indicates that if castration is delayed beyond 28 days of age, anesthesia or analgesia should be used and the procedure should be performed by a veterinarian on such older, larger pigs.
The National Farm Animal Care Council in Canada recommends that castration must be conducted only by a competent person using proper equipment and technique and taking all precautions to avoid unnecessary pain or distress to the animal during and after the procedure.
These suggestions leave a lot of room for interpretation up to the farmers and producers, and are only guidelines, so there is no one to enforce and make sure the animals are being taken care of properly.
Canadian Certified Organic
Organic certification encourages leaving males intact and marketing boars before they reach sexual maturity to avoid boar taint.
If castrating must be done, the procedure should be performed before piglets reach 2 weeks of age. Castration at older
ages requires the use of anaesthetics and analgesia.
The EU has been way ahead of North America in regards to the regulation and encouragement of good animal welfare practices including castration.
United Kingdom castration has been regulated in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act since 1911
In 2005, the Swiss parliament decided to forbid castration without prior anesthesia which started in 2009.
In Norway, all piglets must be castrated by a qualified veterinarian under anesthesia and a law was accepted to ban unmitigated castration starting in 2009. Banning surgical castration is also envisaged in Belgium and the Netherlands.
There are ethical questions that need to be asked with regards to the castration of pigs exclusively for human convenience and benefit. Should we be allowed to alter an animal wholly for people’s benefit, while not benefiting the animal but causing it pain and distress? And if so, should measures be taken to mitigate pain caused to the animal during this procedure?
Also, why is acceptable to perform the same practice on pigs with no anesthetic or pain mitigation while the same surgery performed on dogs is done with the animal under anesthetic and receives both operative and post-operative pain medications?