End in sight for Iceland's barbaric blood farms


End in sight for Iceland's barbaric blood farms

11 May 2023
The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) has ruled on the complaint logged in by Eurogroup for Animals and other animal protection organisations regarding blood farming in Iceland, and it is crystal clear: Iceland is in breach of EU rules on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes.

It is important to note that, as a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Iceland has to comply with the rules of the European Economic Area (EEA), most of which are aligned with those of the EU.

Following the findings of an investigation into Icelandic blood farms led by Animal Welfare Foundation and Tierschutzbund Zürich (AWF|TSB), Eurogroup for Animals, together with 16 animal protection organisations, decided to file an official complaint with the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA), arguing that Iceland did not properly apply its legislation on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, which is derived from the EU Directive on the same topic. 

On Icelandic blood farms the blood of mares is collected to extract a hormone called  Equine Chorionic Gonadotropin (eCG), or Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin (PMSG), which is used in industrial animal breeding to increase the reproductive performance of farmed animals. The semi-wild horses are subjected to violence, risk numerous injuries and repeated trauma. The amount of blood collected - five litres per week - exceeds any international guidelines existing on the topic. A more recent investigation by AWF|TSB demonstrated that nothing has changed since 2019. 

The argument brought up in the complaint was that blood collection for the production of eCG should not be approved by the Icelandic authorities as it does not respect the 3 Rs principle (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) on which the relevant EU Directive is based, and thus the Icelandic law on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. 

Indeed, according to this principle, animal experiments must, whenever possible, be replaced by alternative methods that do not involve live animals. In the case of PMSG, these alternatives exist: producers can rely on a number of hormone-free methods, authorised synthetic medicinal products, as well as on informed management techniques. The decision paves the way to further contest this cruel practice in the EU, where the relevant EU Directive is not properly enforced by all Member States.

ESA’s decision clarifies that we don’t need to discuss further what to do about blood farming, it is illegal under EU rules. Blood farming is a double pain: mares suffer through violent and excessive blood collection so that animal farming can further intensify, with all the animal suffering that goes with it. We hope that after this, Iceland will put an end to this cruel practice. The upcoming revision of the EU animal welfare legislation also provides an opportunity for the EU to act: we call on the European Commission to use this opportunity to propose a ban on the production, the import and the use of PMSG in the EU.”
Reineke Hameleers, CEO of Eurogroup for Animals
Read more on products derived from equines.