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The “blood farms” that profit on mares. A macabre business revealed by an investigation
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Mares are repeatedly forced into pregnancies, to extract blood for producing drugs that are injected in gilts to increase the production of pork. This is the vicious “cycle of horror” revealed by an investigation by Animals Angels and TSB Tierschutzbund Zurich
The undercover investigation by these two organizations dates to 2015, and revealed the existence of real blood farms located mainly in Argentina, Uruguay and the United States.
The blood of pregnant mares is valuable to the pharmaceutical industry because it contains a hormone, the PMSG (Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin), used to produce veterinary drugs mainly employed in intensive farming of pigs. The drug containing PMGS is injected in weaned sows to induce heat and achieve a faster and regulated reproduction cycle.
This means higher efficiency of pig’s production facilities and a multi-billion-dollar business of pig industry via intensive farming.
The life of the mares in “blood farms”
Because blood can be extracted only during gestation, the mares spend their lives between pregnancies and abortions.
The blood is extracted without controls or regulation and can be up to 10 liters for single extraction. This quantity can lead to hypovolemic shock, anemia and even death. The guidelines clearly dictate that
for adult animals, not more than 15% of the estimated circulating blood volume should be extracted in a 4-week period.
Because of the invasiveness of the extracting procedure and the violent methods used by workers, abortions are very common.
Strongest mares are allowed to carry the pregnancy to term and their foals, which are considered an “unwanted by-product” of the industry, are shipped for slaughter, while females are bred to continue the production line.
Further, the slaughterhouse awaits the mares once they are no longer useful.
A cruel fate waits for those who become too weak during the extraction period: abortions are carried out “manually” by employees, who destroy the bag with bare hands to cause abortion of the fetus.
Between one cycle and the other, mares are kept in eucalyptus forests and open pastures to "recover", but due to the lack of controls, they are victims of accidents, diseases and miscarriages. Often, horses die without assistance.
The investigators of Animals’ Angels found malnourished horses with visible ribs and others who struggled to walk and sunk almost to kneel-level in the mud. In the pasture, they found bones, a skull and several dead horses.
These blood farms are located all over the world, but are mostly in US, Argentina and Uruguay. They are often hidden in discrete locations away from public view, in rural and remote areas and are almost impossible to find.
The investigation revealed that several U.S. companies are involved in the trade: some have their own herds, used only for extracting blood, while others purchase the finished product from their international affiliates, who in turn get the PMSG directly from sources in Argentina or Uruguay.
U.S. companies such as Intervet Inc. Merck Animal Health., sell products (P.G. 600) containing PMSG obtained from horses in Uruguay. Others, such as Sigma-Aldrich have stated that their products use PMSG obtained from farms in the U.S.
Central Biomedia, located in Missouri, has a herd of about 200 horses used only for this purpose.
To understand the magnitude of this multi-million-dollar business, consider that Syntex Uruguay S.A., one of the leading producers of PMSG in the world, has exported their product to the EU for a value of 8 million dollars, in 2014 alone.
The Syntex case
The investigation by AA and TSB brought them to Argentina where they documented evidence with pictures and videos about these procedures by Syntex S.A.
Video recordings unequivocally show animal abuse: the employees injure horses with electric prods and are seen repeatedly hitting a horse in the head with a wooden board.
Some horses can be seen shaking with fright and on the verge of fainting after their blood is withdrawn. They can also be seen getting beaten when they are unable to move. Some mares try to jump out from the structures made for withdrawal procedures.
The extraction procedure is forceful and cruel, and is done by insertion of a cannula in the neck. The mares, who are terrified at the sight of the workers, are hit up to 15 times to force them to enter the stable for extraction.
A video shows a mare collapsing outside the stable door after the blood extraction. She returns and leans her head on a railing, still trembling. A worker goes up on the railing and kicks her in face, until she collapses again. Later, the worker moves away but no one cares about her.
A source revealed that Syntex is one of the major suppliers of the slaughterhouse, Clay Horse Slaughter Plant, where the mares are sent once they are no longer fertile. The source estimates that 795 horses have been sent for slaughter in 2014 alone.
The European situation and reactions
In Europe, the production of PMGS is prohibited, but not its import and sale.At the time of publication of the AA report in September 2015, Syntex Uruguay had sent horse serum of worth over 33 million dollars to the EU. The investigations of many other blood farms in Uruguay produced similar results.
When the results of the investigation were published, these pharmaceutical companies and blood farms remained mostly silent. But when the story was picked up by several international news agencies, the Director of Syntex Argentina, Ignacio Videla Dorna, admitted that abortion is a normal part of the donor program, but insisted that the company takes care of the animals, because they are valuable to their business.
Merck, Sharp and Dohme (MSD), one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, recently announced that they will stop buying from farms that use cruel methods, but only for its products in Europe. This is negligible improvement in the overall situation.
A solution to the problem would be the use of synthetic materials for the development of these drugs. However, science has not progressed to production of this synthetic material yet.
A spokesperson of Rocky Mountain Biologicals agrees that synthetic materials might be the best solution which would steer the pharmaceutical industry away from the animal-based products. It considers, however, that PMGS remains the most effective medium for some medical development.
We would like to highlight that we are not talking about life-saving drugs (assuming that it can be a justification for this horror: for us it would not be anyway), but products that cause hormonal imbalances in sows to induce them to early pregnancies and more frequent birth.
We continue to follow developments of this story: over the next few days IHP will also provide additional and updated information on the trade in these drugs in our country.
Here Animals’ Angels USA full Report
Animals’ Angels USA article
Animals’ Angels USA VIDEO
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