On October 5, French newspaper Libération published the results of a horrifying investigation into South American 'blood farms'. There, hundreds of mares are forced into pregnancy, then drained of their blood in a bid to get a special hormone, which is then sold to European pharmaceutical groups.
Two animal rights groups, TSB (Tier Schutz BundZurich) and AWF (Animawal Welfaire Foundation), infiltrated 5 of these farms in Uruguay and Argentina between March 2015 and June 2017. Over the course of the study, the two organisations found that the horses, often used to the point of collapse or death, are kept in large, sparse fields where grass rarely grows.
The poor animals had open, untreated wounds that were sometimes infected. Around them lay the corpses and skeletons of mares that didn't make it.
Even worse, the pregnant animals are put through exhausting 'bleedings' 2 or 3 times a week for 2 months at a time. Nearly 10 liters of blood is taken from them. When the hormone, made during pregnancy, is no longer present in the horses' blood, their pregnancies are aborted manually, without any anesthetic. Horse pregnancies are usually 11 months long, but the mares on the blood farms are impregnated artificially over and over again, several times a year.
These abused horses face a terrible end to their sad lives too, slaughtered in abattoirs after years being drained of their blood. Adeline Colonat, head of communications at Welfarm, told Libération :
Such practices are against every animal welfare law we have in France. These farms would never be established here. It is therefore unacceptable for French laboratories to source their materials from places less concerned about animal welfare.
This doesn't seem to concern French buyers. The hormone these businesses buy from South America is incredibly precious, used in many treatments, including fertility medication. Jean-François Bruyas, vice-preseident of the Federation of French Veterinarians (FSVF), said:
These products, which are common in breeding farms, are used to make females more fertile. Fir example, on pig farms, this hormone slightly increases the number of of piglets each sow produces.
A useful tool then, which lets farmers work out roughly how many animals they will produce in a year, as well as plan when they will be. However, indignation over the way horses are treated to get it has already lead to one laboratory, MSD Santé Animale, to stop sourcing the hormone from South America. Other groups, like Ceva, sadly continue to use them. Pierre Revel-Mouroz, auditing director at Ceva, stopped short of defending animal cruelty:
The first thing we did after watching these videos was to set up an in-house investigation to look into breeding conditions […] If we found solid evidence of abuse, it would be unacceptable for a group like ours.
Several veterinarians are worried about what will happen to the mares. Animal reproduction expert Florian Guillou stated:
This situation raises ethical questions but also poses a potential health risk given the large number of blood required for the industry. Moreover, this hormone often works less well after three injections, which implies that there are a lot of horses being used.
A petition, which has already attracted 1.7 million signatures, has demanded an end to the use of hormones sourced from South America. Welfarm concluded:
In March 2016 the European Parliament published an amendment declaring that the production of eCG (the hormone) in these countries did not comply with EU animal welfare standards. It is now up to the European Council to decide how to move forward.
To add your voice to the protest, sign the petition and help put a stop to the exploitation of these beautiful creatures.
Watch the video made by the investigation below (some images may be distressing):
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