History: Pregnant Mares’ Urine (PMU) Industry

Note: For information on Hoofbeats Across the Heart of America tour click here.

See also: Canadians on Horse Slaughter press release (Ipsos-Reid poll)

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More cutbacks to the PMU industry in April 2005…more pregnant mares suddenly out of work!

Wyeth Organics sent out the following letter. Please phone Wyeth (contact information at the end of the letter) to ask for details of their “transition payment” to farmers. We are concerned that ranchers whose contracts have been ended by the company will be facing some difficult decisions, and will need lots of support in the way of large compensation packages if they are to take proper steps in finding new homes for their horses. Otherwise, displaced horses will end up at auction marts and in the hands of feedlot operators. This was the scenario in late 2003 and early 2004, following huge cutbacks to PMU ranching operations. Also, please ask Wyeth why they persist in providing “low-dose” Premarin to women. The product has been shown by the National Institutes of Health to be risky; in fact, the study had to be halted because of their findings. Why risk the health of women just to make a buck? Note: do you have any interesting information to share as you communicate with Wyeth Organics? Please keep us posted by e-mailing tracs@shaw.ca.

Wyeth Organics Announces Producer Network Resizing

Brandon, Manitoba – April 25, 2005 – After a comprehensive evaluation of market demand and inventory requirements, Wyeth Organics today announced plans to reduce the current network of ranchers involved in the collection of pregnant mare’s urine (PMU). Wyeth extracts estrogens from the PMU for use in the manufacture of hormone therapies that are prescribed for the treatment of menopausal symptoms and prevention of osteoporosis. Less PMU is now required due to changes in the market, a shift to lower doses, and improved inventory management.

As part of the network resizing, Wyeth will discontinue all PMU collections from 19 ranchers located in Alberta. This is primarily due to the higher costs associated with transporting the PMU from Alberta to the processing plant in Brandon, Manitoba. The company will also pursue both voluntary and mandatory network retirements from ranchers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and North Dakota. About 70 ranchers will receive 2-year contracts for the upcoming collection seasons.

Wyeth appreciates the long-standing relationship that it has had with the PMU ranchers and recognizes the high quality of their production operations and equine breeding programs. The Company is also sensitive to the challenges facing producers who will no longer receive contracts for PMU collection, and will offer some financial assistance to producers leaving the network in April 2005.

Although Wyeth has no contractual obligation to provide a compensation package, ranchers will receive a transition payment, and to assure appropriate equine stewardship, Wyeth will also provide funding for feed and herd health care while horses are placed in productive markets. Ongoing herd health reviews by independent veterinarians will also be required. Additionally, Wyeth will continue to finance the Equine Placement Fund Inc. (EPF Inc.), which the Company established in 2003 to support the placement of PMU horses into productive markets. Since October 2003, the EPF Inc. has successfully placed more than 16,100 horses from the PMU industry. Wyeth has made a total commitment of $6.75 million (U.S.) to fund EPF Inc. programs through 2006.

About Wyeth

While it is necessary to adjust the size of the PMU Network, Wyeth remains committed to providing PREMARIN Family Products worldwide including, in some markets, new lower dose products.

Wyeth Organics, a division of Wyeth Canada, is an affiliate of Wyeth (NYSE:WYE), one of the world’s largest research-driven pharmaceutical and health care products companies. Wyeth is a leader in the discovery, development, manufacturing and marketing of pharmaceuticals, vaccines, biotechnology products and non-prescription medicines that improve the quality of life for people worldwide.

For additional information, contact:
Wyeth Canada:
Genevieve Brown
(905) 470-3620

Wyeth North America:
Candace Steele
(484) 865-5428

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January 2004:
DATELINE

Angel
3-month-old PMU foal, “Angel”, was rescued from a meat auction by Dr. Kellosalmi. Visibly shaking, with a dark mark around her neck, she was forced into the auction ring. X-rays later confirmed a broken neck. Today, although her neck is shorter than normal, Angel is happy, healthy, and pain-free.

On Sunday, January 18, 2004, NBC’s Dateline aired a superb 8-minute documentary about the current PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) industry crisis. Due to major downsizing of the industry*, thousands of pregnant mares, foals, and stallions are out of a job…and many have already been sold to slaughter.

Watch the streaming video, “The HRT Horses”, and read the text on Dateline’s website: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3995076/%20. (TRACS assisted Dateline by compiling information and, in conjunction with Last Chance for Animals, supplied video footage of our undercover investigation at a November 2003 PMU mare auction.)

THE PMU INDUSTRY AND PREMARIN

There is still an industry in North America that involves the six-month confinement of pregnant horses and the subsequent slaughter of most of their offspring. Prior to October 2003, over 400 PMU farms, located in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and North Dakota, housed tens of thousands of mares. In their pregnant state, these horses have (over a time span of sixty years) provided hormone-rich urine for the lucrative PMU industry. Their urine, in turn, has been used in the manufacture of a well-known estrogen replacement drug, Premarin, product of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

Today, over 100 PMU farms are still in existence.

WOMEN AND HORSES IN JEOPARDY

Due to well-publicized research in 2002 from the National Institutes of Health, revealing that Premarin may be more dangerous to a woman’s health than beneficial (risk factors include an increase in breast cancer, heart disease, blood clots, strokes, ovarian cancer, and dementia), sales of this drug plummeted. Two major closures of PMU farms resulted, in October 2003 and again in December 2003. With up to 20,000 pregnant mares out of work, auction marts, feedlots, and North American slaughterhouses were soon filled to capacity. Rescue organizations could not work fast enough to keep up with the influx of PMU horses heading for slaughter, and pressure was placed on Wyeth Pharmaceuticals to provide funding and sanctuary for the animals who had served them so well. Wyeth then initiated an Equine Placement Fund, but this effort proved to be of little more value than “a drop in the bucket”–in comparison to the numbers of PMU horses moving through feedlots and into slaughterhouses. Videotaped evidence obtained by an investigator for TRACS in November 2003 and February 2004 clearly showed the enormity of the problem: a horrific catastrophe for horses had struck as a result of sudden PMU farm closures.

ONGOING CONCERNS

The following is a summary of PMU-related problems that still concern environmentalists and animal welfare groups today:

  1. Pollution–resultant waste products from the production facility in Brandon, Manitoba
  2. Plight of the mares–pregnant mares are confined in narrow stalls for six months while their estrogen-rich urine is channeled into collection devices; exercise appears to be minimal and at the discretion of the PMU farmer (the most we have observed, in print, has been once a week); water restrictions have been documented in the past; as farms close down, out-of-work horses head for slaughter
  3. Unwanted by-products–surplus foals are sold to the meat market annually; according to the recommended code of practice for the industry, foals must be at least three months of age before they can be weaned — but some veterinary records have shown that foals as young as two months are sold at prairie auctions; these youngsters, after being force-weaned, attempt to suckle on one another and show little resistance to disease
  4. The tragic result: animal welfare advocates question how many factory farmed animals are needed in North America as innocent foals and unwanted mares, stallions, and “replacement stock” die annually in slaughter houses.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP THE HORSES?

Animal protectionists continue to demand that Wyeth Pharmaceuticals act ethically and rapidly on behalf of all displaced industry horses. Numerous efforts to communicate and negotiate with the huge drug company have not been well-received; in fact, Wyeth’s silence has been deafening. Visitors to this website who feel that Wyeth needs to show responsibility for the lives of industry horses can contact:

Mr. Steve Tasher, Senior Vice-President
Wyeth Pharmaceuticals
Five Giralda Farms
Madison, New Jersey 07940
U.S.A.
Fax: (973)660-7111

PMU HORSE RESCUE

TRACS has taken a firm stand with regard to the use of horses in the production of estrogen replacement drugs. In fact, our convictions have resulted in the successful rescue of hundreds of slaughter-bound horses since the fall of 1997. We work in conjunction with Dr. Ray Kellosalmi, an Okanagan physician who has been dubbed “The Horse Rescuer” by the National Post and the Canadian Medical Association Journal. For more information on our Horse Rescue and Rehabilitation Program, please visit our Horse Adoption webpage: Horse Rescue and Adoption.

HELP FOR WOMEN: LIFE AFTER PREMARIN

Fortunately, there are many vegetable-based estrogens available to women who wish to alleviate troublesome symptoms of menopause, and TRACS is committed to educating the public about these, as well as encouraging physicians to discuss all treatment avenues with their patients. Women should be allowed to make an informed choice!

Some effective, cruelty-free estrogen choices are CES (conjugated estrogen sulfate), Ogen, Estrace, Climacteron, and Estraderm. Non-equine hormone replacement drugs are produced from plant or synthetic sources and are available, through prescription, in Canada and the U.S. Lifestyle and diet can also play a crucial part in the management of menopause, and need to be discussed as an alternative or supplement to drug therapy. Regular exercise is essential for cardiovascular fitness, and weight bearing activities help to combat osteoporosis. A diet high in yams and soybeans provides natural sources of estrogen; and some estrogen-like compounds called phyto-estrogens are present in vegetables, fruits, fibres, legumes, and grains. Herbal remedies such as evening primrose oil and ginseng have also been successfully used. Avoidance of tobacco, salt, caffeine, and alcohol is recommended.