Iceland admits to breaching EU law on horse blood farms


Iceland admits to breaching EU law on horse blood farms

28 September 2023
Iceland has admitted collecting blood from pregnant mares to obtain the hormone PMSG is in breach of the EU legislation that it is supposed to comply with under the European Economic Area. As of November 2023, the country commits to correct this failure, bringing blood farms in Iceland one step closer to closure.

In March 2022, a number of animal protection organisations, including Eurogroup for Animals, lodged a complaint against Iceland to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Surveillance Authority (ESA). Our claim was that Iceland was not respecting the rules established by the European Economic Area, an agreement that brings together EU Member States and the three EFTA States: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

The complaint concerned high volume blood extraction from pregnant mares for the production of the hormone Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin (PMSG), also called Equine Chorionic Gonadotropin (eCG). This is a fertility hormone used in industrial animal breeding to increase the reproductive performance of farmed animals by synchronising their fertility cycles and increasing the number of offspring produced per year.

The complaint was accepted by ESA, who in May 2023 requested that Iceland respond on a clear breach of EU law, notably a breach of the Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes.

On 15 September 2023, the Icelandic authorities replied to ESA accepting that the procedure of collecting blood from pregnant mares for the production of PMSG/eCG does fall under the scope of Directive 2010/63/EU; hence, Iceland admits having failed to fulfil many obligations arising from this Directive.

Notably, Iceland admits failing to comply with the 3Rs principles of replacement, reduction and refinement, whereby animal experiments must be replaced by alternative methods not using live animals when possible, principles that are at the core of Directive 2010/63/EU.

There are numerous alternatives to PMSG/eCG available with similar efficacy, such as simple exercise routines, optimal nutrition, lighting, contact between sows in oestrus, and contact with boars.

Effective from 1 November 2023, Iceland will revoke non-compliant regulations on blood collection from pregnant mares, making such collections subject to Regulation 460/2017 in full compliance with Directive 2010/63/EU.

The open acknowledgement that a country has been in breach of Directive 2010/63/EU paves the way to an EU-wide ban on eCG production, importation and use, which will certainly ease the adoption of similar measures worldwide.

Equine Chorionic Gonadotropin (eCG) production, import and use in the EU

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