“Cruel horse hormone scandal as pregnant mares’ blood is injected into British Meat supply…”
Crammed into pens and repeatedly forced into pregnancy, these are the pitiful horses whose blood is extracted on horrific “vampire” farms to boost meat production.
Tens of thousands of mares have giant needles stuck into their jugular veins to suck out a powerful fertility hormone which is later injected into other animals so they can have more babies much quicker.
Meat sold in Britain comes from animals that have been given the hormone, known as Pregnant Mare’s Serum Gonadotropin.
It is used in the farming of pigs for meat products such as bacon, sausages and chops.
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In concentrated form the powerful hormone is more valuable than gold.
Known as pregnant mare’s serum gonadotropin (PMSG), it is injected in to pigs to speed up their natural fertility cycle.
It brings females back in to season just two days after their piglets have been taken away from them giving their bodies little time to recover.
PMSG is used mainly in pigs but also sheep and cows to increase production of a wide range of meat products.
There is no obligation on farmers or supermarkets to declare which products were produced using the hormone drug, where it was produced and under what conditions.
It is unclear how widespread PMSG use is in the UK.
Campaigners and politicians are now demanding a transparency and a legal requirement to reveal what meat sold on our supermarket shelves was prduced using it.
Kerry McCarthy MP, former shadow environment secretary, said: “Consumers quite rightly want to know what is going into the food that they eat, and it is wrong that such controversial practices can be kept secret.
“Many meat-eaters would not eat meat produced in this way by choice, but they are being kept in the dark.
“We also need to look at the animal welfare issues and impact on human health. We cannot do this unless we are told what is really going on.”
Tens of thousands of horses are thought to be on blood farms, based mainly in rural Uruguay and Argentina as well as Chile.
Campaigners say horses are forced in to stalls where a large bore needle is inserted directly in to their jugular vein.
The hormone can only be found in the blood of mares in their early pregnancy.
When the mares can no longer fall pregnant they are slaughtered and sold as meat.
The Mirror can reveal seven PMSG products are now being sold here in Britain.
Five of the seven UK registered PMSG injections are for use on pigs on farms. The other two injections can also be used on sheep, goats and cattle.
The National Office for Animal Health (NOAH) said suppliers undergo audits and ensure veterinary supervision of horses.
It insisted suppliers “adhere to blood collection limits” but would not specify what these were.
But campaigners have questioned the ethics of keeping mares continually pregnant to harvest their blood at facilities largely hidden from international scrutiny.
The EU does not require farmers to record amounts of PMSG imported or used on factory farms.
Reports in German media from 2015 estimated that 80% of pork farmers there use PMSG.
The body representing the UK animal medicine industry claims it is “not widely used in the UK” but there is no national record.
Wendy Higgins, spokeswoman for Humane Society International, said: “Consumers are often unaware of the animal suffering hidden behind their food choices, particularly in factory farming.
“But the hideous suffering of horses to enhance bacon and pork takes such suffering to a whole new level that will surely shock British shoppers.
“The lives of deprivation and distress that these perpetually-pregnant horses seem forced to endure is obscene.
“Awareness of how animals can suffer for our food is the first step towards avoiding it.
“Knowledge is power and with it consumers can refine their diets to avoid the worst factory farming practices.”
Since the use of PMSG was revealed in mainland Europe a campaign has been launched to have the import of pregnant horse blood products which involve cruelty banned from the EU.
In a fortnight since animal welfare campaign group Avaaz launched a petition more than 1.6 million have signed up.
Oliver MacColl, Avaaz campaign director, said: “It sounds like something from a vampire film, but pregnant horses are having their blood drained to supply a gruesome global trade.
“Now this sickening secret is out more than a million people are demanding that the EU ends this horse horror show for good.”
German-based AWF, which first exposed the horse bleeding practice in 2015, obtained footage at horse blood farming facilities in South America showing staff beating mares with boards and electric rods to force them in to stalls.
It also showed horses so weak they fall down as their legs give in.
One mare is seen resting her head on railings still trembling. A worker climbs the railings and kicks her three times in the face before she collapses.
The AWF claims up to 10 litres of blood can be taken a week per horse on some farms.
This the risk of anaemia, hypovolemic shock, miscarriage and death.
The investigation by AWF also found horse bones and a dead mare on land linked to a blood farm which it claimed provides PMSG for European pharmaceutical firms.
Former workers reportedly told the AWF that 12 litres could sometimes be taken in a single extraction.
European safety guidelines state between 3.4 and 4.5 litres should be taken in a single sitting. Extracting too much can lead to hypovolemic shock and even death.
The European Union does not have specific legislation on standards for drawing blood from pregnant horses.
It is believed mares are bought at livestock auctions in South America and start being ‘bled’ when they are three years old.
Some foals are delivered to ensure a steady supply of horses while others are miscarried or aborted.
The UK National Office for Animal Health said: “Animal welfare, supported by high standards of animal health, is a primary concern of NOAH and its member companies.
“Whilst blood plasma products are not widely used in the UK, such products are available for both human and animal health and provide therapeutic benefits for a range of conditions.
“The principle of recovery of the natural hormone from horses is an authorised practice around the world.
“Member companies employ suppliers, who are experts in blood plasma collection, and have to ensure veterinary supervision and adhere to blood collection limits.
“Audits of suppliers take place to ensure they meet these standards, which includes checking animal health and welfare, both during the collection process and the conditions in which they are kept.”
A spokeswoman for the National Pig Association said: “We are aware that a small number of products containing PMSG are authorised for use in pigs in the UK for the induction and synchronisation of oestrus.
“However, our understanding is that these products are used very little, if at all, in UK pig production as good management of pigs negates the need to use them.”
A spokesman for Defra said: “The import of PMSG is agreed at EU level. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate assesses veterinary medicines to assure their safety, quality and effectiveness.”
What happens on the vampire farm?
Pregnant mares secrete PMSG from their endometrial cups between 40 and 130 days into their gestation.
Once their blood is removed the plasma is extracted, deep frozen and developed in to PMSG drugs by European pharmaceutical firms.
This drug, often in the form of an injection, is then used alongside progestogen to induce ovulation in livestock.
As soon as the young livestock are separated from the mother after weaning she is injected to bring her back “on heat”.
Critics of this intensive factory farming practice argue it does not give mothers’ bodies time to recover naturally.
Pharmaceutical companies promote PMSG as a way to “synchronise oestrus” and reduce none productive days (NPDs).
It can also be used in fertility drugs for humans.
Legal grey area abandons animals without protection
Sabrina Gurtner, project manager at Animal Welfare Federation (AWF), was one of the investigation team who travelled to South America to first expose the practice of horse blood farms in 2015
As one of the team who travelled to South America to expose these horse blood farms in 2015, I can say categorically that an animal-friendly production of PMSG is not possible.
The production of PMSG has been moved to South America because that is the only way to keep it profitable for the companies involved.
Pasture is cheap while the horses are half-wild and not used to human handling.
Production in the EU in compliance with the animal welfare standards would be far more expensive. Only by force can they be moved into the extraction stalls, and only by force can the cannula be inserted into the jugular vein.
PMSG is produced in a legal grey area where no specific legislation for the protection of horse blood mares exists.
The mares stay in production for up to 11 weeks. During this time, blood is drawn from the pregnant mares once or twice a week, at a rate of around 10 litres in 10 minutes. Far too much for the mares to stay healthy.
EU regulations for the maximum blood extraction per mare and per month do not exist.
How you can help
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