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Towards the Abandonment of Surgical Castration in Pigs: How is Immunocastration Perceived by Italian Consumers?

1
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Teramo, 64100 Piano D’Accio, Teramo, Italy
2
Department of Veterinary Medical Sciences, University of Bologna, Via Tolara di Sopra 50, 40064 Ozzano Emilia (BO), Italy
3
Department of Economics and Law, University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, Viale dell’Università, 03043 Cassino (FR), Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(5), 198; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9050198
Received: 19 March 2019 / Revised: 21 April 2019 / Accepted: 23 April 2019 / Published: 26 April 2019
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Simple Summary

The European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs was aimed at abandoning surgical castration and switching to alternative techniques. Immunocastration (a vaccination against Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone) can be a viable alternative method. This technique offers some advantages in terms of animal welfare compared to surgical castration. Nevertheless, the main obstacle to the diffusion of immunocastration seems to be related to consumers’ acceptance, since the use of new technologies in the food chain often generates mistrust. The objective of this research was to assess how immunocastration is perceived by Italian consumers, and how complex and complete information (on advantages and disadvantages of the technique) can influence their perception. The results show that immunocastration is perceived in a predominantly positive manner (54.5%), with a relatively low level of risk perception (34.2%) and a good willingness to pay more for meat from immunocastrated pigs (+18.7%). However, there were no statistically significant differences between the control group (receiving only a neutral technical information) and groups to which complete and complex information was provided.

Abstract

Immunocastration of pigs represents an alternative method to surgical castration, being more respectful of animal welfare. However, this new technology may not be accepted by consumers due to their perception of possible risks tied to the use of the product, thus representing a concern for the production sector. The study aimed at verifying the attitude of Italian consumers towards immunocastration and to assess whether their perception can be affected by science-based information on advantages and disadvantages of immunocastration. A total of 969 consumers (divided in three groups representative of the Italian population) were contacted and asked to complete an online questionnaire. Only technical (neutral) information on immunocastration was provided to the first group; the second and the third group received information on the advantages (+) and disadvantages (-) of the technique, shown in reverse order (+/- and -/+, respectively). The level of information did not affect consumers’ perception of immunocastration. Overall, immunocastration is perceived in a predominantly positive manner (54.5%), with a relatively low level of risk perception (34.2%), and a good willingness to pay more for meat deriving from immunocastrated pigs (+18.7%). View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; consumer; willingness to pay; pig; castration; immunocastration; information; survey animal welfare; consumer; willingness to pay; pig; castration; immunocastration; information; survey
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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MDPI and ACS Style

Di Pasquale, J.; Nannoni, E.; Sardi, L.; Rubini, G.; Salvatore, R.; Bartoli, L.; Adinolfi, F.; Martelli, G. Towards the Abandonment of Surgical Castration in Pigs: How is Immunocastration Perceived by Italian Consumers? Animals 2019, 9, 198.

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