According to an industry report, 26 ranches in remote areas of North Dakota and Canada house approximately 2,000 pregnant mares who produce urine for Premarin and Prempro.
Another report from 2002 stated at that time, there were around 37,000 broodmares on 422 PMU farms and ranches in Canada and North Dakota. They cross all breeds but are most commonly registered Quarter Horses.
For most of their 11-month pregnancies, these horses are confined to stalls so small that they cannot turn around or take more than a single step in any direction. The animals must wear rubber urine-collection bags at all times, which causes chafing and lesions, and their drinking water is limited so that their urine will yield more concentrated estrogen. Once the foals are born, the horses are impregnated again, and this cycle continues for about 12 years. PMU ranchers are expected to follow the “Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Horses in PMU Operations,” but following these guidelines is optional.
Some of the thousands of foals born on PMU farms each year are used to replace their exhausted mothers. Some are offered for adoption, but the remaining foals—along with worn-out mares—are sold at auction, where most are purchased by buyers for slaughterhouses.
Premarin mares are typically Belgian – Quarter Horses crosses. The animals must wear rubber urine-collection bags at all times, which causes chafing and lesions.
Once the foals are born, the horses are re-impregnated; this cycle continues for about 12 years.
PMU ranchers are only expected to follow the “Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Horses in PMU Operations ”— a document produced by a “study committee” that included a Wyeth representative — on a voluntary basis. The document states that horses may be allowed only “as much exercise as is necessary for their welfare,” leaving the exact amount open to interpretation.
So many of their foals, taken away once they are weaned or nearly weaned, often end their young lives in the slaughterhouse.
The fate of the thousands of foals born on PMU farms each year is equally disturbing.
Some are used to replace their exhausted mothers.
Some are offered for adoption (although Big Pharma funded farms are not permitted to work directly with rescue organizations), but the remaining foals—along with worn-out mares—are sold at auction by farmers to make extra money, where most are purchased by middlemen working for slaughterhouses.
The most commonly known drug containing conjugated equine estrogen (CEE), derived from pregnant mare’s urine (PMU), is Premarin. Premarin is currently manufactured by Wyeth, who merged in 2009 and now a division of pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer Inc..
Every year, doctors prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs — also referred to as menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) — to hundreds of thousands of women experiencing menopausal symptoms. One of the most widely prescribed drugs for HRT is Premarin, dispensed in pill and cream form. Not only has this form of HRT proved dangerous to humans, but also the horses kept confined, pregnant and milked for their urine.
Susan Donaldson James, “Adopt a Horse and Save It From the Slaughterhouse,” ABC News, 4 Jan. 2007.
Charlene Laino, “Due to Risks, Hormone Trial Halted,” MSNBC, 9 Jul. 2002.
Jonathan LaPook, “Hormone Replacement, Breast Cancer Link Grows,” CBS Evening News, 19 Oct. 2010.
CNN.com, “More Findings Against Long-Term Hormone Therapy,” 17 Mar. 2003.