The Abusive Use of Pregnant Mares in the PMSG Industry

This paper seeks to discuss critical concerns related to the current production and commercialisation of pregnant mare serum gonadotropin (PMSG). This biological product is commercialised all over the world by industrial animal breeding to increase the fertility and reproduction performance of farmed animals, mainly pigs, but also cattle, sheep, and goats. From 2016 to 2019, only in Germany, about 6.4 million doses of PMSG were administered to sows.1 Investigations carried out, since 2015, by the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) and the Tierschutzbund Zürich (TSB), have alerted to the precarious and abusive management of pregnant mares in the production of the PMSG.

The extraction of the biological PMSG runs in industrial plants of private pharmaceutical companies installed in Argentina, Uruguay, and Iceland. One of the largest producers of the hormone, Syntex S.A. a big multinational in the sector, has exported the PMSG to more than 30 countries on five continents. In 2021, the amount of 770 grams of equine gonadotropic hormone produced by Syntex Uruguay S.A. was exported to the European Union, totalling $9 million.1 In that country, laboratories were granted a support programme to increase production to the exportation of PMSG financed by the Southern Common Market and by the Uruguayan Ministry for Industry, Energy and Mining.1

On these ‘blood farms’, thousands of mares are turned into living sources of raw material. During a specific period of pregnancy, the hormone is extracted by the hormone is extracted by withdrawing blood, through a production system entirely reliant on the equine organism. Up to 10 litres of blood are extracted from each mare during each pregnancy, through procedures that are repeated once or twice a week, over a period that goes up to 12 weeks. According to the AWF,2 in Argentina and Uruguay, around 10.000 mares are kept in these ‘blood farms’. For greater production efficiency, they are submitted to induced abortions at around the 100th day of gestation, in order to be newly impregnated. An estimated 20,000 abortions are induced annually. In 2016, an experiment conducted in Uruguay with an approved protocol of the research committee of the Universidad de la República, Montevideo, described the procedures carried out for the interruption of pregnancy: after a “digital puncture of the fetal membranes with previous manual dilation of the cervix”, fetus and membrane are expelled within the first 48 hours (1: 17).

Past and Current Equine Use Standard

Past and Current Equine Use Standard Historically, equines have been used by stressing their limits of resistance and resilience. Under this hegemonic perspective, the meaning of the existence of these species gets mixed up with ingrained utilitarian standards and consolidated financial schemes. In current times, such criteria have prevailed with stubborn resilience, but the consequences of handling methods based on brutal submission are being gradually disclosed.3,4 Inherently dependent on pregnant mares’ bodies, the ‘blood farms expose a brutal expression of subjugation, and abusive purposes that have undergirded our utilitarian connection to these beings. Even by demonstrating how fragile the boundaries between ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarism’ can be.