castration, removal of the sex glands of an animal, i.e., testes in the male, or ovaries and often the uterus in the female. Castration of the female animal is commonly referred to as spaying. Castration results in sterility, decreased sexual desire, and inhibition of secondary sex characteristics. It is performed for the purpose of improving the quality of meat and decreasing the aggressiveness of farm animals; in pet animals it prevents unwanted mating behavior, reproduction, and wandering. Removal of the sex glands in humans is sometimes necessary to prevent the spread of certain hormone-dependent cancers. Castration as a punishment or deterrent for repeat sexual offenders is a topic debated both because of questions regarding its efficacy and because of questions regarding the relative rights of offenders and their victims or potential victims.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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