So-called “blood farms”–wherein pregnant mares have their blood harvested for the purpose of extracting the hormone PMSG, which is in turn used to increase fertility in other livestock–have been operating illegally for about the past two years now, says Björn M. Sigurjónsson, a lecturer at Dania Academy in Denmark, Fréttablaðið reports.
These farms came to international attention late last year, when the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) and Tierschutzbund Zurich released a graphic and disturbing 20-minute documentary on “blood farms” in Iceland.
The video documents that there are 119 such blood farms in Iceland with about 5,000 Icelandic horses overall. 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.
While a bill was introduced to Parliament shortly after the video’s release that would ban the practice altogether, Björn says the farms are already operating illegally.
Björn points out that the last permit issued by Ísteka, an Icelandic company that provides permits for blood farms, ran out in 2020. He also points to The Law On Animal Welfare–specifically, Article 20, which forbids the use of live animals for the production of chemicals and medicines without the express permission of the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority. “One year later a new regulation on horse handling was issued, which stated that no operations may be performed on animals except for medical reasons, which removed any remaining doubt,” he said.
Whether these farms will now be shut down for good, or compelled to raise horses for entirely other reasons, remains to be seen.
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