Swine policy revised to recognize immunocastration

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The AVMA policy concerning swine castration has been revised to acknowledge that immunocastration may be a viable alternative to surgical castration. The updated policy, recommended by the Animal Welfare Committee and approved by the Executive Board, reads as follows:


Swine Castration

Castration of swine can help control aggressive behavior and improve the palatability of pork by eliminating most boar taint (an odor found in the meat of some adult male pigs). Current U.S. swine markets do not allow for mass marketing of uncastrated male pigs. Surgical castration is a painful procedure and should be performed as early as possible. Surgical wounds should be healed prior to weaning. After 14 days of age, swine should be castrated using analgesia and/or anesthesia. The AVMA recommends the use of procedures and practices that reduce or eliminate pain, including the use of approved or AMDUCA-permissible clinically effective medications whenever possible. The AVMA encourages development and implementation of practical analgesic and anesthetic protocols for, and alternatives to, swine castration. Immunological castration is an available technology that, like surgical castration, prevents most boar taint and may be a viable alternative to surgical castration.

Immunocastration involves injection of a protein compound to induce the production of antibodies against gonadotropin-releasing hormone, according to the Animal Welfare Committee recommendation. The process requires an injection eight to 11 weeks prior to slaughter and another four weeks prior to slaughter.

Immunocastration results in decreased production of gonadal steroids with an associated increase in the metabolism of skatole, the recommendation explains. Accordingly, there is a reduction in boar taint. Immunocastration is a temporary form of castration.

A backgrounder on swine castration, including both surgical and immunological approaches, is available on the AVMA website here.