Preliminary research conducted in Norway for the ministry and the national meat industry association Kjøttbransjens Landsforening (KLF) contended that the vaccine method offered a comparative, if not superior, solution to combating boar taint and delivering high-quality meat.
Moreover, the ministry working group will examine a grants system that will enable farms to train personnel to safely administer the vaccine. Around 800,000 piglets are castrated in Norway on an annual basis.
"We will look at best practice elsewhere. We know that vaccines have been effectively used in pig castration in New Zealand and in Australia for over 20 years," the ministry said in a statement.
The working group, which includes KLF nominee Harald Furuseth and includes both government officials and industry representatives, is due to report its proposals to the ministry by 1 February, 2015. Furuseth is CEO of the Norwegian meat processing company Furuseth A/S.
"KLF’s position is positive towards the ministry… initiative, and the surgical castration issue has also been handled well at parliamentary question time. The debate has been constructive, future-oriented and participative," KLF’s CEO Bjørn-Ole Juul-Hansen told GlobalMeatNews.
Vaccine castration is not widely practised in Norway, although it has taken place on a limited basis since 2007. KLF figures suggest that around 30,000 piglets in Norway are castrated annually using the vaccine method. The number in 2007 was less than 10,000.
According to the ministry, the working group will take a close look at international best practice around the use of the castration vaccine Improvac, which has been approved for use in Norway since 2010.
Not surprisingly, the initiative has been welcomed by animal protection and welfare organisations in Norway, such as Dyrevernalliansen (DA).
"Castration by vaccine is less invasive and painful for piglets. Surgical castration by anaesthetic can leave wounds in the scrotum which are not always repaired. Since piglets are usually dropped back into their pins after the surgical castration procedure, many experience pain, discomfort and even fall ill. Vaccines offer a more humane form of castration," said DA spokesperson Kaja Ringnes Efskind.