Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 259–272 | Cite as

Belgian Consumers’ Opinion on Pork Consumption Concerning Alternatives for Unanesthetized Piglet Castration

  • Sanne Van Beirendonck
  • Bert Driessen
  • Rony Geers


Male piglets in Belgium are still castrated unanesthetized in the first week of life, but animal rights organizations, supermarkets, and some consumers no longer accept this method in terms of animal welfare, and are pushing the pig industry to apply available alternative methods. This major change in pig husbandry will increase production costs without a guarantee for return of investment by consumers. Therefore, it is important to know the opinion of consumers on this matter. A questionnaire was used to collect data from 1,018 people through face to face interviewing in Flanders. A Chi-square test and Fisher’s exact test were used to analyze the data. Results show that in spite of several media campaigns of animal welfare organizations over the past few years, still half of the Flemish respondents were not aware of the problem of unanesthetized piglet castration. However, after being informed, the majority wanted unanesthetized castration to be banned. Although the concern about animal welfare implications was very high, the willingness to pay extra for alternatives was low.


Castration Consumer Piglet Pork 



The authors would like to thank Ellen De Maeyer for helping with the practical accomplishment of the questionnaires and the anonymous reviewers of an earlier version of this paper for their helpful comments.


  1. Anand, K. J. S. (1990). Neonatal responses to anesthesia and surgery. Clinical Perinatology, 17, 207–214.Google Scholar
  2. Andrews, K., & Fitzgerald, M. (1994). The cutaneous withdrawal reflex in human neonates: Sensitization, receptive fields and the effects of contralateral stimulation. Pain, 51, 95–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bonneau, M. (1998). Use of entire males for pig meat in the European Union. Meat Science, 49(1), 257–272.Google Scholar
  4. De Tavernier, J., Lips, D., & Aerts, S. (2005). Dier en Welzijn. Tielt, Belgium: Terra-Lannoo nv.Google Scholar
  5. Dijksterhuis, G. B., Engel, B., Walstra, P., Furnols, M. F. I., Agerhem, H., Fischer, K., et al. (2000). An international study on the importance of androstenone and skatole for boar taint: II. Sensory evaluation by trained panels in seven European countries. Meat Science, 54(3), 261–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. European Commission. (2001). Commission Directive 2001/93/EC of 9 November 2001 amending Directive 91/630/EEC laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs.Google Scholar
  7. European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs. (2011).
  8. European Food Safety Authority. (2004). Welfare aspects of the castration of piglets. The EFSA Journal, 91, 1–100.Google Scholar
  9. Fitzgerald, M. (1994). Neurobiology of foetal and neonatal pain: Textbook of pain (3rd ed.). London: Churchill Livingstone.Google Scholar
  10. Font i Furnols, M., Gispert, M., Guerrero, L., Velarde, A.,Tibau, J., Soler, J., & Hortós, M. (2008). Consumers’ sensory acceptability of pork from immunocastrated male pigs. Meat Science, 80, 1013–1018.Google Scholar
  11. Font i Furnols, M., & Oliver, M. A. (1999). Production and consumption of pork meat with different levels of boar taint. Food Science and Technology International, 5, 367–375.Google Scholar
  12. Frewer, L. J., Howard, C., Hedderley, D., & Shepherd, R. (1997). Consumer attitudes towards different food-processing technologies used in cheese production-the influence of consumer benefit. Food Quality and Preference, 8(4), 271–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Frewer, L. J., Kole, A., Van De Kroon, S. M. A., & De Lauwere, C. (2005). Consumer attitudes towards the development of animal-friendly husbandry systems. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 18, 345–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Harper, G., & Henson, S. (2001). Consumer Concerns About Animal Welfare and the Impact on Food Choice. EU FAIR CT98-3678 Final Report, pp. 38.
  15. Hay, M., Vulin, A., Genin, S., Sales, P., & Prunier, A. (2003). Assessment of pain induced by castration in piglets: Behavioural and physiological responses over the subsequent 5 days. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 82, 201–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hendriksen, C. F. M., & Boumans, I. J. M. M. (2006). Een rapport over de ontwikkelingen inen rondom het proefdiergebruik en alternatieven voor dierproeven. De proefdierbarometer.
  17. Henke, J., & Ehrhardt W. (2004). Anästhesie und Analgesie beim Klein- und Heimtier sowie bei Vögeln, Reptilien, Amphibien und Fischen. Schattauer Verlag, 369–405.Google Scholar
  18. Huber-Eicher, B., & Spring, P. (2008). Attitudes of Swiss consumers towards meat from entire orimmunocastrated boars: A representative survey. Research in Veterinary Science, 85, 625–627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Prunier, A., Bonneau, M., von Borell, E. H., Cinotti, S., Gunn, M., Fredriksen, B., et al. (2006). A review of the welfare consequences of surgical castration in piglets and the evaluation of non-surgical methods. Animal Welfare, 15, 277–289.Google Scholar
  20. Taylor, A. A., Weary, D. M., Lessard, M., & Braithwaite, L. A. (2001). Behavioral responses of piglets to castration: the effect of pig age. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 73, 35–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Van Beirendonck, S., Driessen, B., Verbeke, G., & Geers, R. (2011). Behavior of piglets with or without carbon dioxide anesthesia. Journal of Animal Science, 89(10), 3310–3317.Google Scholar
  22. Vanhonacker, F., Verbeke, W., & Tuyttens, F. (2009). Belgian consumers’ attitude towards surgical castration and immunocastration of piglets. Animal Welfare, 18, 371–380. Google Scholar
  23. Verbeke, W. (2009). Stakeholder, citizen and consumer interests in farm animal welfare. Animal Welfare, 18, 325–333.Google Scholar
  24. Verbeke, W., & Viaene, J. (1999). Beliefs, attitude and behaviour towards fresh meatconsumption in Belgium: Empirical evidence from a consumer survey. Food Quality and Preference, 10, 437–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Vermeir, I., & Verbeke, W. (2006). Sustainable food consumption: exploring the consumer “attitude-behavioral intention” gap. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 19, 169–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sanne Van Beirendonck
    • 1
  • Bert Driessen
    • 1
  • Rony Geers
    • 2
  1. 1.Katholieke Hogeschool KempenGeelBelgium
  2. 2.Laboratory for Quality Care in Animal ProductionK. U. LeuvenLovenjoelBelgium

Personalised recommendations