Biotech Firm Plans to Increase Monitoring of Blood Extraction from Pregnant Mares

Vala Hafstað

The biotech firm Ísteka is planning extensive improvements in terms of monitoring the extraction of blood from pregnant mares in Iceland, Morgunblaðið reports.

The mares’ blood contains the hormone PMSG (Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin), used for the stimulation of ovarian function and activity in farmed animals, such as sows. PMSG can also be used to induce superovulation, which results in larger litter size.

In a written response to Morgunblaðið, Arnþór Guðlaugsson, Ísteka’s managing director, states that a cost estimate of those improvements is not ready, but they are likely to cost tens of millions of ISK. The improvements, he states, require investment in people as well as infrastructure.

Ísteka’s plans come in the wake of the publishing of a video, made by AWF/​TSB (Ani­mal Welfare Foundati­on/​Tierschutzbund Zürich), showing blood being extracted from pregnant mares in Iceland. (See our previous report here). Harsh methods shown in the video, which was published November 22, were condemned by the Icelandic Horse Trainers’ Association, which issued a statement, saying, among other things, “In our view, what the video shows is systematic and repeated animal cruelty.”

Last week, Ísteka canceled its contracts with two farmers, citing animal welfare concerns.

Ísteka is a rapidly growing company, and this year, 5,383 mares were utilized as blood mares at 119 farms.

Arnþór states that it is essential to Ísteka and its customers that animal welfare be ensured in the process of blood extraction. He adds that the video and claims made in it are still being investigated and that no conclusion has yet been reached.

He notes that the improvements planned mainly concern educating employees and raising their awareness. Besides, the plan is for employees, farmers, veterinarians and security guards to obtain formal training.

Moreover, when selecting blood mares, Ísteka aims to assess the temperament of the mares, excluding ones that show abnormal stress reaction. Finally, cameras are to be installed where blood extraction takes place. 

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