Blood mare bill criticised

13.01.2022 - 15:49
Mynd: Hulda G. Geirsdóttir / RÚV
Iceland is one of a small handful of countries in the world that allows the harvesting of blood from pregnant or nursing horses, used in the creation of fertility drugs for pigs and other farm animals. Anger following an animal welfare charity’s exposé late last year of how some of the mares are treated prompted the promise of a parliamentary bill to ban the practice. That bill will not have as easy a passage through Alþingi as might have been imagined back in November.

It is good that the blood mare industry is under discussion, and animal abusers must be punished, the head of the national animal rights association says—but adds that if the industry is to be banned outright, then most other forms of animal husbandry should be banned too. There are examples of animal abuse in all areas, Hallgerður Hauksdóttir says, and close monitoring of animal welfare is important across the board. She welcomes the police investigation into the blood mare operations at several locations around the country. 

Hallgerður points out that horses in Iceland are not only kept for riding and breeding, but also as farm animals that are slaughtered and eaten. This is common in many parts of the world, but many people are sensitive to the fact. In light of this, she chooses not to differentiate between sectors, instead concentrating on improving welfare across the board. 

You are an animal welfare organisation but you think it is okay to carry on this blood taking? 

“We cannot assess precisely how much blood can be taken and how often, and so forth. We are not specialists in that. But this horse farming, how these horses are kept as farm animals, is among the best welfare sectors of all in Iceland. That comes out in the fact that there are very few premature deaths, production-related diseases are not found. These horses are very healthy and live a very long time and get to be in an environment that is close to their natural habitat, so from an animal welfare point of view they live well—as long as they are treated well and not too much blood is taken from them,” Hallgerður says. 

The bill to ban the blood mare industry is submitted by Inga Sæland, the leader of Flokkur fólksins (the People’s Party). The bill is open for consultation, and one of the submissions Alþingi has already received comes from France Génetique Elevage, a French organisation for genetic improvements to farmed ruminants, saying the production of mare blood in Iceland is important. 

The organisation says the use of the substance extracted from the blood contributes to hygiene, improved breeding of animals with properties that are considered optimal and to ensure genome diversity. 

"That is why we support the collection of blood, but under strict supervision and with the welfare of the animals as a priority, especially those horses that are needed to produce the substance," the statement, signed by Laurent Journaux, the managing director, says. 

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