Equines used in the production of eCG and ejiao are not protected.
One of the most commonly harvested products from equines is equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG), otherwise known as pregnant mare's serum gonadotropin (PMSG). Used in animal breeding to induce follicular growth, ovulation and estrus, eCG is found in the blood of pregnant mares between days 40 and 130 of pregnancy. It is extracted in what have been termed blood farms in Argentina, Uruguay, Iceland and Germany.
More often than not these farms are unregulated, leaving animals vulnerable to abuse. Tierschutzbund Zürich and the Animal Welfare Foundation, together with Animals’ Angels in the US, carried out an investigation into blood farms in Argentina and revealed horrifying conditions. They found that workers routinely extract up to a quarter of an animal’s blood at one time, leading to weakness and anemia. Mares are kept constantly pregnant and aborted to hasten the next pregnancy, as well as being beaten by workers.
The eCG market is not just harmful to the equines from which it is harvested. The hormone is most often used by pig producers to enhance the opportunities for their farmed animals to come into heat, induce superovulation and produce an abundance of offspring. This is severely detrimental to the welfare of sows and their piglets.
The opinion on the use of eCG differs amongst veterinary surgeons and from country to country. Studies have been performed to replace the use of eCG by a synthetic alternative. No eCG would allow for more natural reproduction cycles of animals following their biological rhythm.
Another equines exploitation relates to the supply and production chains for ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine made of gelatin derived from donkey skin. Due to high demand for the product, donkey skins are being imported into China from Africa, impacting the size of the African donkey population. Recently, Kenya banned donkey slaughter to prevent the decimation of the population in the country amid a spate of thefts. In Botswana, SPANA calculates that the donkey population has fallen by 38% over a two-year period.
In order to keep pace with demand, donkey theft and the price of purchased donkeys have both increased, which in turn severely impacts on the livelihoods of people whose lives rely on donkeys. It also directly impacts the delivery of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals:
SDGs 1, 2 and 8: No Poverty, Zero Hunger and Decent Work
Since healthier working equids are more productive, families grow more food and better support themselves with sustainable economic activities, especially in rural communities.
SDGs 4 and 5: Educate children and empower women
Healthier, stronger working equids mean more children get to go to school and more women get the training they need to upskill. Women and children then explore future community opportunities instead of working themselves as draught animals.
SDGs 6, 12 and 15: Clean water and sanitation, Responsible Consumption and Production & Life on Land
Working equids mean better protection for biodiversity, lower levels of pollution and more sustainable use of precious resources like water and agricultural land