We demand a ban for the production, import, and use of PMSG

Iceland

PMSG production in Iceland

In Iceland, blood has been drawn from pregnant mares for about 40 years, but the business has tripled over the past decade. Several pharmaceutical companies stopped importing PMSG from Uruguay and Argentina after the blood farm scandal that became public seven years ago and are now sourcing PMSG from Iceland. In 2021, blood was taken from 5,300 mares on 119 farms. The Icelandic pharma company Isteka buys blood from individual farmers but also runs their own blood farms, where they keep hundreds of mares. The turnover of Isteka was 11 million Euro in 2020.  Five litres of blood are extracted from the pregnant mares every week, during two months. This is more than four times as much as international guidelines would recommend. Most of the mares used for PMSG production are semi-wild; they are used for meat and PMSG production only and are not used to human handling.

These untamed horses are frightened or even panic when being moved into small restraint boxes. Force is used on those who resist; they are beaten with whips, plastic pipes, iron bars or wooden beams. Once inside the restraint box, their head is tied up by a rope and a strap is fixed over their back so they cannot rear up. This kind of treatment and restraint leads to repeated traumatisation, also known as “learned helplessness”. Furthermore, the methods of restraint pose numerous risks of injuries.

Iceland has a long tradition of breeding horses for slaughter. However, in the same period that the PMSG production has tripled, the slaughter prices for foals have decreased drastically. Nowadays, the foals are just a cheap by-product of the blood business. The farmers earn about four times as much for a mare’s blood than they earn for her foal.

A few weeks after we published our documentary film in Iceland, a bill was submitted to the Icelandic parliament, asking for a ban on blood collections from pregnant mares. The bill is currently under assessment by a parliamentary committee. At the same time, a working group established by the minister of agriculture is examining the legal basis and economic impact of the activity and is supposed to publish their findings and recommendations by June 2022.

We support the Icelandic bill and the call of the European Parliament that is asking the European Commission to stop both the import and domestic production of PMSG.

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