The practice of extracting blood from pregnant mares has quadrupled in frequency during the last decade, RÚV reports. The increased frequency is a result of a growing demand for a hormone called ECG (also known as Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin, or PMSG), which can be found in large quantities in the blood serum of pregnant mares. The hormone is used in the animal pharmaceutical industry, mainly as a fertility booster for other farm animals.
In November, the Animal Welfare Foundation and Tierschutzbund Zurich released a documentary that revealed the harsh treatment of pregnant mares in Iceland during the procedure, which included beatings of the animals. A wave of criticism followed the release of the footage. At present, 4,500 individuals have signed a petition to halt blood harvesting in mares in Iceland. In February, the leader of Flokkur fólksins (the People’s Party) proposed a nationwide ban on blood harvesting. She has asserted that the bill will be one of the party’s top priorities during this electoral term
ÍSTEKA, the company that produces pharmaceuticals from the blood serum of Icelandic mares said in a public statement that the company was alarmed by the practices exposed in the documentary and condemned the maltreatment of the mares in question. According to the statement, the company began an internal supplier review to investigate the allegations immediately after the footage was released. The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) also asserted that supervising blood-collecting procedures was a priority, and had been so since a regulation regarding the practice came into effect in 2014. However, the documentary has made clear that the authority’s inspections have not succeeded in sufficiently protecting the animals from cruel treatment.
Accessing the executives of Ísteka has been a struggle for journalists, RÚV reports. The news agency has not succeeded in lining up an interview with the CEO so far, but the company has instead responded to their enquiries via e-mail. Ísteka has disclosed that a little less than 5,400 mares are used for the purposes of the blood harvesting industry in the country. The company owns 300 of them. The company makes an annual profit of 1,9 billion ISK [$14.5 million, €12.9 million] and employs 40 people. During high season, around 200 people are involved in the practice.