Inside the Push to Stop Iceland's 'Blood Mare' Practice

Calls are rising to stop allowing farms to extract hormone from pregnant mares
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 18, 2022 1:25 PM CDT
Updated May 22, 2022 7:30 AM CDT
Iceland's Horse 'Blood Farms' Come Under Fire
   (Getty Images)

As far as alleged animal abuse goes, this is likely a practice you haven't heard of—and, if campaigners have their way, you won't in the future. The Guardian reports on a growing call for Iceland's harvesting of Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin (PMSG) to be banned. As the name implies, it involves extracting a hormone from pregnant horses via their jugular vein, a practice that occurs on 119 "blood farms" in the country. The extraction is turned into a powder that is purchased by farmers around the globe to boost reproduction in female pigs, cows, and other farm animals. The amount taken from the mares is sizable: Per the pharmaceutical company Isteka, five liters weekly for eight weeks.

The Guardian heard from animal welfare groups that found evidence of broken restraint boxes and bite-mark-studded enclosures at the blood farms, which they say indicates it is a cruel practice. This video, an investigation by the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) and Tierschutzbund Zurich, captures footage that shows blood-collection workers beating and shouting at the horses. The Reykjavik Grapeline cites the AWF as saying that roughly 30% of the mares whose blood is harvested end up exiting the system either because they die or are sent to slaughterhouses after they can no longer get pregnant. In this case, the animal-rights groups aren't the only ones making noise.

An international group of NGOs in March filed a complaint with the European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority; the European Commission has expressed its "serious concern" about the treatment of these horses; the European parliament is looking to ban imports of the hormone; and Iceland's opposition People’s party is opposed to the extractions. About 7% of the country's 80,000 Icelandic horses are subjected to the practice each summer. NDTV reports only two other countries, Argentina and Uruguay, currently permit this extraction. (More Iceland stories.)

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