Factory “Farmaceuticals”

Jessica Morowitz

Premarin® is a hormone replacement therapy drug manufactured by Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals.  The drug is widely prescribed to an estimated nine million women to help them cope with the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats.  Premarin® gets its name by virtue of what it is made from—PREgnant MARes’ urINe (PMU).  That means that in order to manufacture this drug, Wyeth needs a constant supply of pregnant mares.

It is not surprising that the conditions these mares experience are not unlike those experienced by animals raised for food in factory farms.  According to the Humane Society of the United States, the mares enter the barns in September, and remain tethered in their stalls until March or April.  The stalls are very narrow, and do not allow the mares to turn around or move more than a step or two in any direction.  While inside they are constantly hooked up to a collection system that even further restricts their movements, and can make it uncomfortable to even lie down.  Moreover, the mares are often denied access to an adequate supply of water in an effort to concentrate the hormones in their urine and increase profits.  Typically, the mares will be ‘in production’ for about eight or nine years consecutively, getting pregnant and giving birth year after year.

What is just as bad if not worse than the way these mares are treated, is the inevitable by-product of all these pregnant mares—the foals.  Sadly, they are usually weaned from their mothers too early, at around three or four months of age instead of six months.  This is due to the nature of the production system.  The mares are usually bred-back right after giving birth (within a few weeks), and need to move back into the barns in September to begin urine collection.  Like the fate of many of the mares when they are no longer able to produce, these foals are often sent to auction.  From auction these horses often find their way to into feedlots, and eventually slaughterhouses.    While there are a few rescue organizations out there dedicated to the adoption of PMU mares and foals, there are not nearly enough of them to keep up with the estimated 40,000 PMU foals born each year.

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