09. September 2019

Iceland | PMSG production | Blood farms for hormone production

117 empty blood canisters with a capacity of fives litres each.

A mare is struck in the face inside the raceway leading to the restraint box.

Dilapidated blood extraction facilities hold a high risk of injuries.

During ten days of investigation in Iceland, we find 40 blood farms out of around 100 farms where blood is taken from pregnant mares for the production of the fertility hormone PMSG. We detect numerous risks of injury to the mares at these facilities. Most raceways and restraint boxes have dangerous gaps where the mares can injure their legs, and the boxes often have low bars where they can sustain head injuries.

The farms contracted by the pharma company Isteka keep on average 30 to 70 mares, with some farms having considerably more. Isteka itself runs several blood farms and owns hundreds of mares. Most of the mares that are used for PMSG production are untamed and not used to human handling. Blood extraction is a very stressful procedure for these semi-wild horses.

During a farm visit together with Isteka, we observe mares struggling in the restraint boxes. They are very frightened and often panic. Despite the audit situation, we observe rough handling when the farmers believe they are not being watched: A reluctant mare is poked in her belly with a rubber pipe, then she is kicked in her hind leg and pulled by the tail. When being watched, the farmers only use their hands to move the mares forward. At another blood farm, where we observe activities from the distance, people repeatedly hit mares in the holding pen and raceway with sticks, including on their heads. In addition, dogs are used to herd the horses, and one is observed biting them.

We will continue to document blood farms in Iceland and urge the EU Commission to stop the import of the hormone PMSG.