New images from GAIA: millions of piglets castrated in Flanders without anaesthesia


New images from GAIA: millions of piglets castrated in Flanders without anaesthesia

4 May 2023
Press Release
A new investigation from GAIA reveals how painful piglet castration really is. Every year millions of piglets are castrated in Flanders (Belgium) without anaesthesia, and GAIA is launching a petition to stop this practice.

In Belgium, 5 to 6 million male pigs are bred every year and 80% of them are castrated (annually 4 to 4.8 million piglets). The piglet is castrated surgically at three to seven days of age to prevent it from developing the sexual hormones that can affect the meat’s odour in 3-5% of the carcasses, called 'boar taint'. Alternatives to painful surgical castration exist, namely in the form of a vaccine or raising entire boars.

A new survey by Ipsos shows that 3 out of 4 Belgians (86%) are in favour of a legal ban on the surgical castration of piglets. In The road to end piglet castration report published today, GAIA is calling for a ban on this gruesome practice.

97 to 100% of Belgian piglets (3.9 to 4.8 million) are castrated without anaesthesia and only 85% receive meloxicam, an anti-inflammatory agent, as prescribed by BePork, the Belgian quality label for pork. Although analgesics and anaesthetics, used individually or in combination, can reduce pain or induce unconsciousness during castration, the way in which these substances are used in the field is insufficient to prevent severe suffering. 

The only way to ensure a painless procedure would be to apply the same protocol used for cats and dogs (namely a combination of sedation and gas anaesthesia with pre-and post-operative pain relief). Only a trained veterinarian has the necessary competences to properly follow that type of procedure thus requiring time and costs that the farmers are virtually unable or unwilling to carry.

Both the vaccine against boar taint (15% of Belgian male pigs are vaccinated) and the rearing of intact boars with detection of boar taint at the slaughterhouse (8% of Belgian male pigs are kept as intact boars) are two good solutions and therefore alternatives to castration that pig farmers can use to manage the risk of boar taint, without surgically castrating the piglet. 

Only a legal ban on the castration of piglets will remove the very serious and unacceptable suffering experienced by Belgian piglets during and after castration. Some retailers, such as Colruyt, have already decided to stop selling meat from castrated piglets, and McDonalds Belgium no longer buys it.
Ann De Greef, Director, GAIA
Our battle against the surgical castration of piglets spans two decades. Scientific evidence and public outcry against this practice are overwhelming and can no longer be ignored. There is no justification whatsoever for the European Commission to allow for this painful mutilation to continue and we are confident that the revision of the animal welfare legislation will include a full ban in favour of the tried and tested humane alternatives.
Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals


Ipsos survey


The road to end piglet castration report

Press contacts
Agnese Marcon, Communications Manager, Eurogroup for Animals 
+32 (0) 456 078 038 

Ann De Gref, Diretor, GAIA
+32 (0) 477 53 42 02

Eurogroup for Animals represents over ninety animal protection organisations across the EU, UK, Switzerland, Serbia, Norway, and Australia. Since its foundation in 1980, the organisation has succeeded in encouraging the EU to adopt higher legal standards for animal protection. Eurogroup for Animals reflects public opinion through its members and has both the scientific and technical expertise to provide authoritative advice on issues relating to animal protection. Eurogroup for Animals is a founding member of the World Federation for Animals which unites the animal protection movement at the global level.

GAIA (Action Group in the Interest of Animals) unites defenders of animal welfare and advocates for animal rights in Belgium. We believe animals should be treated with respect and deserve a decent life. We work towards building a human–animal relationship of humanity and justice.