The Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) and Tierschutzbund Zurich has released a graphic and disturbing 20-minute documentary on “blood farms” in Iceland—farms where pregnant mares have their blood harvested for the purpose of extracting the hormone PMSG, “which is used primarily in industrial piglet production to boost fertility and to synchronise births”.
Iceland is one of only three countries in the world that continues this practice, the others being Argentina and Uruguay. The video documents that there are 119 such blood farms in Iceland with about 5,000 Icelandic horses overall.
“The investigations have discovered a sequence of massive animal welfare violations, contrary to all statements made by the pharmaceutical companies,” a statement from the AWF reads. “Most of the mares are semi-wild, they have hardly any contact with humans. Footage of the blood collection procedure shows workers beating the horses, shouting at them loudly and chasing dogs after them.”
Apart from the documented beating, harassment, and poor conditions in which the horses are kept, the procedure itself is also costly for the horses. PMSG can reportedly only be extracted in early pregnancy, and so foals are typically aborted in order to allow for mares to be impregnated twice yearly. Furthermore, the AWF says that about 30% of these mares drop out of the system, either from dying under these conditions or from being sent to slaughterhouses when they can no longer get pregnant.
Icelandic veterinary authorities are reportedly aware of the practice, saying that they conduct routine inspections and, if violations are found on site, the practice is stopped at once. However, they also said that they only visit about 40% of these farms each year.
“A coalition of international animal welfare organisations is calling on the EU Commission for an import and production ban on PMSG – a demand also recently made by the European Parliament,” the AWF statement concludes.
Responding to the report, the director of the Association of Icelandic Horse Farmers, Sveinn Steinarsson, told radio station Rás 2 that a full investigation would be launched, “leaving no stone unturned”.
Another horse farmer, Sæunn Þórarinsdóttir, interviewed by Vísir, was more direct in response to the video, saying, “I would beat him myself, anyone who laid a hand on my horse. That’s just how it is.”
The video can be watched here and below—bear in mind that this video shows animal cruelty in graphic detail.
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