Background

“Since boars’ meat is less tasty, the young boars which are intended for fattening are always castrated,” states an Encyclopedia of 1954 emphatically. The castration of boars was so self-evident in the last century that we know relatively little about the unpalatable taste – referred to as boar taint.
Since then the (non-anaesthetized) castration of boars is regarded more and more as an infringement of the wellbeing of the animal and as socially not acceptable. On the other hand, pig farmers find it an unpleasant task. There are also economic disadvantages: castrated boars require relatively more feed and have a less favourable meat to fat ratio.

The main obstacle is that the meat of non-castrated boars is anything but popular in the international trade because of the fear of boar taint. It should be added that castrated boars (hogs) are less aggressive than non-castrated boars. This is an advantage for the pig farmer and for the welfare of animals housed in groups.

In the European and international markets there are many different views on the castration and non-castration of male pigs. Therefore, the European Commission and representatives of European farmers, meat industry, retailers, scientist, veterinarians and animal welfare NGO’s committed a plan to voluntarily end surgical castration of pigs in Europe by January 1st, 2018. An European approach is necessary to develop the tools to reach these goals and to ensure that the costs are fairly shared and the European market accepts meat of non-castrated male pigs.