Castration is a process of removal of the testicles or its function to sterilise or to decreases particular hormones so that the animal is having different characteristics of the physiological process, resulting in different characteristics of animal products (especially meat).
The most used method of castration is the surgical castration. This method, in principle, is making an incision in the scrotum and the removal of testes. After removal, the testes are absent in the piglet’s body so that it will be not producing any testosterone anymore. By this process, it is expected that the meat of the castrated group of animal has more intramuscular fat because the absence of testosterone which resembles the female meat production and metabolism (Lawrie, 2006).
Besides surgical, there is another method of castration, namely immuno- castration. According to Animal Welfare Division of American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) (2013), immuno- castration involves an injection of a protein compound that similar to immunisation to triggers antibody production against gonadotropin releasing hormones (GnRH). This process is performed in two doses: the first 8 to 11 weeks before slaughter and the second 4 weeks before slaughter. This process resulting in the same outcome (decreases in gonadal steroids productions) with the surgical castration, so that there is also a decreasing trend in a boar taint and enhancement in meat quality.
Surgical castration will result in pain because the scrotum and testes innervated as well as other tissues (Prunier et al., 2006). Therefore the anesthesia should be used, especially for the piglets older than a week. Local anaesthesia is the most common method used in experiments designed to relieve pain in piglets at castration. Intratesticular administrations have been tested as well as subcutaneous administration at the site of the incision.
The castration is regulated under Commission Directive 2008/120/EC of Official Journal of European Communities (2009). In annexe chapter 1 of regulation as mentioned earlier, it is stated that castration of piglets aged one to seven days can be performed without anaesthesia. The piglets older than seven days have to be castrated, but with the use of anaesthesia and in the supervision of veterinary only.
Concerns about animal welfare arise because nowadays most of the people always wanted to express their sympathy to the animals. Von Borrell et al. (2009) studied that there is pain exist when piglets castrated. This fact is evidently supported by various indicators such as animal’s vocalisation in response to pain, cortisol profile, and behavioural aspects.
American Veterinary Medical Associoation. (2013). Literature Review on the Welfare Implications of Swine Castration. Accessed from: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/LiteratureReviews/Documents/swine_castration_bgnd.pdf at 10-4-2017
Lawrie, R. A., & Ledward, D. (2006). Lawrie’s meat science (7th Edition). Cambridge: Woodhead Publishing.
Prunier, A., Bonneau, M., Cinotti, S., Gunn, M., Fredriksen, B., Giersing, M., & Velarde, A. (2006). A review of the welfare consequences of surgical castration in piglets and the evaluation of non-surgical methods, Animal Welfare 2006, 15: 277-289.
The Council of European Union. (2009). Council Directive 2008/120/EC of 18 December 2008. Laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs. Accessed from: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32008L0120&from=EN at 10-4-2017.
von Borrell, E., & Baumgartner, J. (2014). Animal welfare implications of surgical castration and its alternatives in pigs. Animal (2009), 3:11, pp 1488–1496. doi:10.1017/S1751731109004728.