piglets-1132-640x360Strasbourg – During its session today the Intergroup discussed the situation regarding the European Declaration on Alternatives to Surgical Castration of Pigs and how it is being implemented across the EU.

In 2010 the European Commission, with the support of the Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union proposed to establish the “European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs”. The Declaration was a voluntary commitment signed by many different stakeholders of the pork chain (farmers, veterinarians, meat industry, NGOs, governmental bodies, researchers, etc.) to abandon surgical castration by 1 January 2018.

During her presentation Elena Nalon, Project Officer – Advocacy Farm Animals at Eurogroup for Animals stated: “The first Progress Report on the European Declaration approved in December 2014 is extremely worrying as it highlights that the first major milestone of 2012, according to which all pigs still undergoing surgical castration must receive anaesthesia and/or prolonged analgesia, has been missed.”

“It also shows that there is as yet no a common understanding of boar taint within the EU and for export markets, and that research projects have  sometimes been duplicated due to a lack of cooperation and central coordination. With regard to training and communication towards farmers and other actors of the pork chain – we are still in an initial phase.” she added.

The level of commitment of various stakeholders that signed the European Declaration differs a lot and is generally low. In general, there is no accountability for the undertaken actions and a certain unwillingness to take the first steps.

Ms. Annechien Ten Have-Mellema gave a presentation from her perspective of progressive Dutch pig farmer, incessantly looking for ways to improve animal welfare. She gave an overview of the current situation in the Netherlands, a country which now successfully raises 65% entire male pigs (boars), and where meat from castrated pigs is not sold on the internal market. Ms Ten Have-Mellema said: “A big effort is required to change long-standing attitudes and beliefs, but the market opportunities are there and the benefits for animal welfare when we stop surgical castration are enormous. Not to mention the higher sustainability of raising boars, as they have a better feed conversion and produce less manure. In sum, benefits for all.”

She went on to explain that the “Human Nose system” has been used for many years in the Netherlands to detect boar taint with excellent results. “The solutions are there, and we should share our information and our market intelligence to create trust in the pork chain and speed up the phasing out of piglet castration”, she concluded.

The meeting was concluded by a presentation of Dr. Denis Simonin from the Animal Wefere Unit of DG-SANTE, who illustrated the main points of the Declaration and how these objectives are being pursued by the European commission. “The Commission has put a lot of resources into research projects to ensure the acceptance of products from non-castrated pigs in EU and foreign markets and to agree on a common understanding of boar taint. Four studies have been completed and the results will be presented during the upcoming workshop of the Declaration, on 26 February in Brussels.” Further studies and educational activities are also foreseen.

Responding to the presentations Janusz Wojciechowski MEP, President of the Intergroup commented:It is extremely disappointing that four years down the line and with only three years to go before the 2018 deadline we are still far from phasing out the surgical castration of piglets.”

Mr Wojciechowski called on the members of the Intergroup to “work with him to ensure that pressure is generated and maintained towards all member states and the European Commission to take concrete and measurable steps to phase out surgical piglet castration by 2018, thus improving the well-being of Europe’s pigs as quickly as possible”.


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