According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), male pigs should be castrated by 14 days of age. While it is difficult for livestock suppliers not to to castrate their pigs at all, there are ways that they can reduce the amount of pain associated with castration -- usually an extremely painful experience for piglets, who are often not given any painkillers.
One way to lessen the pain of castration is a technique called immunocastration, which involves injecting a protein compound that works like an immunization to to suppress the pig's hormone production. Currently, a drug called Improvest is the only FDA-approved veterinary prescription product to do this in the United States.
But in other countries, the same drug -- labelled as Improvac™ -- is used more frequently. In fact, it's approved for used in more than 60 other countries. And castration laws are more stringent in some countries, too. The UK, Ireland, Norway and Switzerland forbidpig castration without anesthesia, while Spain and Portugal have banned it in some areas. The EU has pledged to entirely ban castration without anesthesia by 2018 -- a groundbreaking move that many other countries, the U.S. included, lag far behind.