Stopping the Horse Blood Industry in its Tracks

 New undercover investigation increases pressure on PMSG importers
Following their successful 2015 campaign, Animals' Angels and its European partners Animal Welfare Foundation/TSB Zürich have once again joined forces to call on the EU Commission & pharmaceutical companies to stop the importation of PMSG into Europe. PMSG-a hormone produced by pregnant mares-is used by the pork industry to regulate and enhance sow fertility. The hormone is harvested by extracting large quantities of blood from over 10,000 pregnant mares annually, a process that places the animals at a high risk for infection, anemia, malnutrition, and death. 


"When we first raised our concerns about this largely unknown and completely unacceptable industry in 2015, the public was outraged by the hazardous conditions in South American production sites, ignorant staff, and brutal handling of these gentle creatures-and they made their voices heard," said Sonja Meadows, president of Animals' Angels, the only US organization working to address the inhumane treatment of mares trapped in this hidden industry. "Unfortunately, at many facilities, all that has changed in the years since are the methods of abuse and the level of secrecy. The latest investigations carried out by our European partner Animal Welfare Foundation/TSB Zürich, reveal continued ineptitude and callousness."

As PMSG is only present in early-pregnancy mares, the harvesting of the hormone entails the removal of nearly 10 liters of blood once or twice a week for a twelve-week period, representing nearly 20% of total blood volume. Such a high blood loss alone can lead to hypovolemic shock, dangerously low levels of protein and iron, and a weakened immune system, but the extraction is too often accompanied by harsh facility conditions, cruel treatment by staff, and no veterinary care. In addition, the mare's unborn foals are typically aborted around 100 days to maximize PMSG production, a late-term abortion that carries potential for disease and unnecessary stress.

Due to the coalition's investigative reporting and the public outcry that followed, Merck & Company, Inc., one of the largest pharmaceutical corporations in the world, and IDT Biologica, a major medical importer in Europe, have made the decision to no longer source any PMSG products from South America. As recently as last week, French importer Ceva followed the examples of Merck & IDT after reviewing the new footage obtained in early 2018. The company announced it has stopped all imports of PMSG from South America and commissioned an investigation.

"Our previous reporting on this cruel and senseless industry opened many people's eyes, and we were so inspired by the response," said Meadows. "The changes made by Merck, IDT Biologica, Ceva, and others prove how powerful public exposure can be. We must keep the pressure on companies that continue to take advantage of innocent animals to the benefit of their bottom line."

The new investigations carried out in Argentina and Uruguay in January and April 2018 clearly show that the abuse of mares producing the valuable hormone is ongoing, despite companies' claims to have addressed the situation with trainings, audits, and new manuals. Among particular offenders is the American pharmaceutical giant Zoetis, the world's largest producer of medicine and vaccinations for pets and livestock. Both Zoetis's US and European branches (Italy) have ties to South American companies with documented mistreatments that include:

Violent handling of mares during the blood extraction process;
* Methods of restraint that pose a high risk of injury;
* No veterinary supervision or care, despite a large number of emaciated and lethargic animals;
Horses dying on the pastures without euthanasia;
Abortions carried out systematically, with little concern for individual animal welfare;
* Insufficient or inexistent hoof care; and
* Lack of man-made shelters or dry resting areas.

Meadows notes that, in addition to the abuses inherent to PMSG harvesting, the farm animals receiving the hormone are also at risk. "PMSG promotes unnatural rates of reproduction that give the sows no time to recover in between pregnancies, can cause immunological and allergic reactions, and potentially increase piglet mortality," Meadows explained. " The hormone is dangerous in its harvest and in its administration." In Switzerland, where the use of PMSG dropped by 80% after consumer pressure in 2015, farmers have demonstrated that efficient breeding is possible without the hormone, instead utilizing synthetic drugs, boar stimulation, and adjusted feeding schedules.
The goal: Complete import stop of all PMSG sourced in South America 
"The mistreatments this new investigation uncovered are heinous, unacceptable and completely unnecessary," said Meadows. "European laws forbid this type of treatment to animals-and those high standards should be applied to imported products as well. Animals' Angels and Animal Welfare Foundation/TSB Zürich call upon the remaining importers Zoetis and Hipra to immediately stop the use of PMSG sourced from South America."

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