Iceland has 119 blood farms exploiting more than 5,300 semi-wild Icelandic horses whose blood is taken to extract a hormone and then sold to European and British farmers. The Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin (eCG) is turned into powder, which farmers give to their female farm animals to increase reproduction rates.

Investigators from the Animal Welfare Foundation (Tierschutzbund Zürich) discovered in 2021 that horses in these farms were being abused, as they obtained footage of the animals being hit before their blood was taken, and they documented bite marks inside the horses’ enclosures, likely to be a sign of distress and anxiety. The investigators exposed possible animal welfare violations, contrary to statements made by the pharmaceutical companies, blood farmers and veterinary authorities involved.

Sabrina Gurtner, Project Manager at AWF|TSB, said, “Since only veterinarians are allowed to carry out the blood collections, according to Icelandic law they would have to intervene immediately in case of animal welfare violations and report them to the veterinary authority. However, this does not happen because the veterinarians earn good money from the blood business too, as informants confirmed to us.”

Eurogroup for Animals claims that around five litres of blood are taken from pregnant horses every week in Iceland, and when they give birth, their foals are often sent to the slaughterhouse. In 2021, the European parliament passed a motion for a resolution calling on the Commission and the Member States to halt the import and production of Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin. Eurogroup for Animals recently partnered with 16 animal protection organizations to file a complaint against blood farming to the European Free Trade Association’s Surveillance Authority, because Iceland may not be applying its laws on the protection of animals used in science to blood farms. With this practice, we see just another example of how the horrors of animal agriculture extend beyond the pain and suffering it inflicts on the animals raised for food and fibre. A different animal in another country is harmed to satisfy the greed of farmers to breed and kill more animals for profit.  

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.