From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1993:

BRANDON, Manitoba––Rocketing demand for estrogen replacement drugs
is expected to double the number of farms producing pregnant mare’s urine (PMU) from
300 in 1991 to 600 by the end of 1993. Already, 485 farms are collecting urine from an
estimated 75,000 catheterized mares. Because the mares must be pregnant to produce a
commercially viable amount of estrogen, they will give birth to as many as 90,000 foals
this year––most of them in May. The equine gestation cycle normally runs from June to

May, while the PMU collection cycle
normally runs from September to April.
“Most of the foals from the
average PMU farm will be sold purely
for meat,” says Tom Hughes of the
Canadian Farm Animal Care Trust, an
agricultural industry umbrella group
formed in 1988. “Some may be sold as
potential riding horses, but I would
think the demand would be fairly slim,”
as the North American riding horse mar-
ket has been oversupplied since the mid-
1980s. The primary humane concern
Hughes sees in the PMU industry is the
long distance many of the foals are
trucked before slaughter. Most Alberta,
Saskatchewan, and North Dakota foals
go to Lethbridge, Alberta, while most
Manitoba foals go to Owen Sound,
Ontario. Quebec foals are slaughtered in
the Montreal area. Colts and cull fillies
are typically sold by PMU farms at four
to five months of age, just as their moth-
ers are impregnated again. They may or
may not be fattened by the purchasers
before slaughter, depending on horse-
flesh prices. Fillies who show the tem-
perament and conformation to become
PMU producers are kept as replacements
for worn out or infertile mares, or are
used to expand production.
The PMU industry centers
around Brandon, Manitoba, explains
Member of Parliament Marianne Cerilli,
because, “For 26 years Ayerst Organics
Limited of Brandon has cornered the mar-
ket” on PMU-based estrogen replacement
drugs. The Ayerst plant at Brandon is the
only one in the world set up to collect estro-
gen from PMU. The concentrated estrogen
is then shipped to Ayerst manufacturing
plants in Montreal and New York. The busi-
ness emerged in the 1960s when birth con-
trol pills went into widespread use, and is
booming again because PMU is the base
material of Premarine, a synthetic hormone
drug often prescribed to menopausal women.
As the Baby Boomers who stoked the birth
control industry reach middle age,
Premarine therapy is expected to become one
of the most lucrative drug markets. Ayerst is
preparing a $100 million (U.S.) expansion to
take advantage of the opportunity with the
aid of $20 million (U.S.) provided by the
federally and provincially backed Western
Economic Diversification Fund.
As environment critic for the oppo-
sition New Democratic Party, and as a
Manitoban, from a Winnipeg district, Cerilli
is critical of the Ayerst deal for multiple rea-
sons. In February, she published a nine-page
report, The Business of Estrogen Prod-
uction, the Environment, and Women’s
H e a l t h, detailing how the investment will
apparently add only 71 industrial jobs to the
Manitoba economy, how Ayerst waste
allegedly already overburdens the Brandon
sewage system, how the industry may be
cruel to animals, and at greatest length, how
the promotion of Premarine itself may
involve risks to women’s health, much as
birth control pills were found to have harm-
ful side effects for many women (especially
older women and smokers) after prolonged
use. “In the 1960s,” Cerilli wrote, “estrogen
was hailed as a wonder drug, and Premarine
was prescribed on its own. Later it was dis-
covered that there was a link between this
estrogen replacement therapy and endometri-
al cancer.” Con-sequently, Cerilli indicates,
women’s health experts now recommend that
Premarine be prescribed only to deal with
osteoporosis and other serious medical con-
ditions, not simply to ease normal
menopause. The preferred approach even to
conditions for which Premarine is beneficial,
Cerilli suggests, is preventive diet and exer-
cise. (There is evidence that cutting meat
intake significantly reduces the risk of devel-
oping osteoporosis.)
As Hughes points out, the living
conditions for PMU-producing mares are
comparable to those of intensively raised
dairy cattle––which are offensive to most
humane people. Confined to their stalls for
more than half of each year, the mares can
only stand up and sit down for exercise.
Because sanitary conditions and public image
matter to Ayerst, farms accepted as PMU
suppliers must adhere to a detailed Rec
ommended Code of Practice, published in
June 1990, in hopes of heading off horse
abuse scandals similar to those that killed the
Ontario PMU industry 23 years ago. Since
PMU production is currently the most lucra-
tive branch of the horse trade, Ayerst report-
edly has 10 applicants for every opening,
and in Hughes’ opinion, effectively screens
them. However, Hughes has recommended
that Ayerst add at least one veterinarian to its
field inspection staff, who would visit each
farm at six-month intervals.
Horse expert Sharon Cregier is
more critical. As author of works including
Farm Animal Ethology: A Guide to Sources,
Road Transport of the Horse: An Annotated
Bibliography, a n d Alleviating Surface
Transit Stress on Horses, Cregier argues that
the Recommended Code of Practice is insuf-
ficient to guarantee PMU-producing horses
even the minimal comfort possible when
spending six-plus months tethered, catheter-
ized, and pregnant. Cregier believes the rec-
ommended stall size is a foot too narrow to
allow the average mare to enjoy deep sleep,
while the recommended brushed concrete
flooring may cause sore hooves.
[The Cerilli report is available from
the Animal Alliance of Canada, 221
Broadview Ave., Suite 101, Toronto,
Ontario, Canada M4M 2G3; telephone 416-
462-9541; fax 416-462-9647. Donations for
copying and postage are appreciated.]
Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.