A complex ball game: piglet castration as a dynamic and complex social issue in the EU

Li Lin-Schilstra*, Paul T.M. Ingenbleek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Animal welfare in livestock farming is a general concept that involves many concrete ethical issues for which solutions need to be developed. To avoid disturbing the internal market, the European Union encourages market players to develop harmonized solutions to such issues. One issue is the castration of piglets without pain relief, the practice of which causes pain to piglets. Although scientists have found alternatives to replace castration without pain relief, the process of solving the castration issue has stagnated. Questions remain as to why this painful castration practice has still not been addressed after three decades, how it is likely to develop in the near future, and whether it will lead to a single harmonized solution for the EU. To answer these questions, this study examines the development of the castration issue using in-depth interviews and desk research. The results show that different countries have developed different solutions at different stages of the issue’s development. For a long period, the developments did not set a course toward a single solution; most EU pork producers waited for a castration ban in Germany. Such a situation was turbulent in solving the issue because the heterogeneous EU was unlikely to agree upon on a single alternative. With the EU now taking a market-based orientation, however, solving the issue now seems more likely. More attention is needed to understand market opportunities and chain integration in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Animal welfare
  • Case study
  • European Union
  • Norm life cycle theory
  • Piglet castration


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