With the surgical castration of piglets without anesthesia to be banned in Germany starting in January 2019, the federal agriculture minister presented possible alternatives to the German government in Berlin this week.

“With the ban on piglet castration without anesthetic, we are taking a decisive step closer to our goal of making Germany the leader in animal welfare,” said Christian Schmidt, federal agriculture minister, “I want to have small and medium-sized enterprises on board. That is why we are talking to the industry. We are working together on practical solutions and continue actively to support the animal owners to ensure that castration without anesthesia can be ended as smoothly as possible.”

Alternatives to castration

The German Ministry of Agriculture report identifies three alternatives for the industry in 2019: surgical castration under anesthesia, immunocastration and rearing young boars. Each of these is appropriate from the points of view of animal welfare, drug safety and consumer protection, and should be regarded as equally acceptable at all stages of the food chain, according to the report. 

The report noted that the German pig meat industry would prefer to see further alternatives developed, particularly other methods that could be carried out by farmers and had little, if any, implications for the overall cost of production. 

According to the report, the assumptions about cost used for the assessment tended to over-estimate the additional costs, particularly for immunocastration and rearing uncastrated boars.

In 2013, Germany’s Parliament decided to end the practice of castration without anesthesia of male pigs under eight days of age.