31 May 2012 By Ashley Yeo
Castration of piglets without anesthesia will be banned in Germany as of January 1 2017. That was one of several amendments to the animal welfare law proposed by the federal German cabinet in late May. National rules on the use of lab animals and horse branding will also be tightened.
The ruling on pig castration will be watched closely by sedative and pain relief product manufacturers. Male piglets are castrated to prevent the problem of boar taint in pig meat and unwanted sexual behavior. Some 20 million piglets are castrated in Germany annually. It is thought that 80% of piglets born in the EU are castrated.
Under EU Directive 2008/120/EC, laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs, castration of male piglets under seven days old is possible without anesthesia by a vet or trained person; in pigs over seven days, it does require anesthesia and additional prolonged analgesia. But EU member states can adopt stricter national rules.
The German law will also include an almost total ban on the use of monkeys in animal trials. It recognizes that animal experimentation for human pharma R&D is necessary, but that animals should not be used in cosmetic product research. The German federal agriculture ministry (BMELV) is making available grants for research into alternatives to the use of animals in drug research.
Other planned changes in the bill include a ban on non-curative inventions in livestock (e.g. tail docking, beak trimming of layer hens), and on the mechanical branding of foals, in view of the availability of microchipping.
The general thrust of the amendments is that livestock – and pet – owners will need to take greater responsibility for the welfare of their animals. BMELV is also considering the introduction of an animal welfare quality mark for animal products, similar to the Biosiegel organic label.
The bill goes now goes to both chambers of parliament and is expected to become law in autumn 2012.