The saga of Iceland’s so-called “blood mares” continues, with the European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority (ESA) serving the country formal notice today that it has “failed to fulfil its obligations under the EEA Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes by not following the processes and assessments set out in the Directive.”
The ESA is requesting that Iceland start correctly applying EEA rules on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes as regards the blood collection from pregnant mares.
Iceland’s blood farms made the news in late 2021 when the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) and Tierschutzbund Zurich released a documentary on the 119 blood farms operating in Iceland. At these farms, the blood from pregnant mares is harvested for the production of the Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin hormone (PMSG), also called Equine Chorionic Gonadotropin (eCG). The hormone is used to chemically increase the fertility of other farm animals.
Despite findings that animal abuse was taking place at Iceland’s blood farms; mares were being impregnated, aborted and impregnated again to keep up their hormone production; and more than twice the recommended volume of blood was being taken from the mares at farms where licences were already long expired, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture announced in June 2022 it would continue to allow the collection of blood from pregnant mares.
Iceland adopted new regulations on the collection of blood from pregnant mares in August 2022, but the ESA points out that it actually creates further legal uncertainty around the practice, while still failing to align with the directives of the EEA.
Alþingi now has two months to reply to the formal notice before the ESA determines whether to take the case further.
The ESA is charged with monitoring compliance with the Agreement on the European Economic Area in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
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