Reprieve until 2025 for blood farms in Iceland?


Reprieve until 2025 for blood farms in Iceland?

28 March 2023
In a documentary by Germany’s Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) and Tierschutzbund Zürich (TSB), business, tourism, breeding and research experts criticise the extraction and use of the blood hormone PMSG. This fertility hormone has been used for over 40 years, mainly in industrial piglet breeding.

Sixty-six percent of Iceland’s population is opposed to the extraction of PMSG on blood farms, according to a public survey conducted in December 2021. The debate was triggered by the film Iceland – Land of the 5,000 blood mares, which was the first report by AWF and TSB in the winter 2021. The new film, Iceland – the hidden blood business, looks at the latest developments in the blood business since the first film was made. AWF and TSB try to engage with both supporters and opponents.

The blood farmers are becoming more and more secretive and a wall of silence has built up.
Sabrina Gurtner, Project Manager at Animal Welfare Foundation

Arnthor Gudlaugsson, manager of pharmaceutical business Isteka, was not available for comment. In his company’s 2022 annual report, he talks about the damage the business has suffered. The amount of blood collected this year was a quarter lower than in 2021 (...) One reason for this reduction is believed to be the difficult staffing situation among vets, but the flexibility of other vets and the employment of foreign vets have prevented greater damage...”.

Only Sigurborg Daðadóttir, chief veterinarian at the regulatory authority MAST, agreed to speak. She admits: “I doubt anyone would have done what you see in the video if an inspector had been present.” She also confirms that to date, “Isteka itself has measured blood levels.”

Iceland’s government has issued a new regulation to decide on the future of the blood business in 2025. Until then it intends to collect the necessary data. But the pressure exerted on the government by the pharmaceutical company Isteka became clear during the drafting of the regulation. Its first version, for instance, ordered a reduction in blood collection frequency from eight to six times for each pregnancy. But the regulation now in force reinstates a frequency of eight blood collections, as requested by Isteka.

The only thing the regulation does is to legalise things as they’ve been done in the past. Now all they need is a permit. For the animals, nothing has changed,” says Björn Sigurjónsson, lawyer and co-founder of the new Animal Welfare Iceland, who is critical of the government.

Foreign lobby groups, such as sheep and pig farmers from France, Spain, Italy and elsewhere, submitted statements about the bill because they were against it. That kind of thing never happens in such a small country and it proves the scale of the problem.
Inga Sæland, Member of the Parliament of Iceland
In the EU, which is the main market for Iceland’s PMSG blood hormone, resistance to its import and use has been building for years. The Meura Haflinger Stud in Thuringia, for example, ended its production in 2022, and the Argentinian pharmaceutical company Syntex S.A. has stopped the distribution of its PMSG preparation, Fixplan, until further notice. The European Parliament also supports the call for a ban on PMSG.
It is extremely important to have these images and to make them available to the public, just as it is important to campaign for both a halt to production and a ban on PMSG imports.
Tilly Metz MEP, President of the European Parliament's Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals

The upcoming revision of the animal welfare legislation is a crucial opportunity to finally explicitly ban the production, use and import of PMSG into the EU.

Add your voice asking the EU to put an end to this cruel business by signing this petition.

Iceland – the hidden blood business (in English)

Iceland – the hidden blood business (in German)