Facts About Premarin and Cruelty to Horses

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Premarin is a drug use in hormone replacement therapy for women. It has a very cruel start, and comes from the urine of pregnant mares who live in what are called PMU barns. Why do animal rights activists not want woman using Premarin? Why are so many

The PMU industry is a cruel one that collects urine from pregnant mares to get Estrogen to be used in hormone replacement therapy for women. The cruelty lies in two places, how the horses are kept, and the slaughter of most of the foals as “by-products” of the industry.

Typically the product made from Pregnant Mare Urine is sold under the commercial name of Premarin.  This keeping of pregnant mares for the collection of urine is known as the PMU industry. Premarin is not the only product made from pregnant mare urine but is the main one.

Who Uses Premarin?

Premarin is mostly used by women who have had a hysterectomy or have passed through menopause and are looking for a way to treat hot flashes and other problems.

horse in box stall

As small as this stall is... it is 3 times larger than the stalls that PMU mares stand in for six months of the year.  Photo source.

The Cruelty Issues

For 6 months of a year pregnant mares (female horses) are kept inside in small standing stalls with bags strapped to them for the purpose of urine collection. The PMU mares are kept fairly still, unable to walk around, as movement would disturb the bags and collection system. The bags often rub and chafe the mare's skin and several mares will suffer from infection and sores around the bags. Water is restricted because the manufacturers of the drugs prefer more concentrated urine.

As the mares are relatively inactive (they may get outside for 1 hour a day, or once every few weeks, or not at all) their bone density becomes an issue, and muscle is lost. Most mares have a far shorter lifespan in this industry than they would as riding horses.

The foals are the main issue of cruelty in the Premarin producing industry, many more foals are produced every year than the market can bare, as such many foals are slaughtered at a few months of age. Ideally they would prefer to sell foals to private buyers simply because they can get more money that way, and many will have auctions to facilitate being able to sell many foals at one time rather than shipping them to auction, or selling one foal here, and one there. None the less most buyers prefer to buy mature horses (at least two years old) rather than foals, as such many foals still go to slaughter.

There is only a “Recommended” guide for handling and caring for PMU mares. This is only a voluntary set of guidelines which are only inspected by the industry itself. In other words the company that buys the product is the one that can inspect the PMU barns.

Some of the recommended standards are stalls that are four feet wide (keep in mind that many of the mares used have some draft breeding in them), and four gallons of water (most horses will drink 5-8 gallons of water a day). There is no guideline suggesting how much exercise the horses should get. As such while some barns let the horses out for as much as an hour a day, most do not let them out at all for six months.

For those unfamiliar with horses, the stall is the space a horse is kept in when indoors, many riding stables keep horses in box stalls which are roomy spaces 10 ft x 10 ft or even 12 ft x 12 ft. In this industry the horses are kept tied in long narrow stalls (as mentioned they might be 4 ft wide).

When the mares can no longer be impregnated they are slaughtered. David Jones (an industry insider) was quoted as saying in Today, January 17, 1995 in “The Price of a Wonder Drug: What Happens When the Medical Men Have Got What They Came For” - “see, the foals and the mares which can't get pregnant any more – they are the by-produce of the PMU industry... We crush-'em and recycle-'em just like [aluminum] cans.” Indeed an estimated 90% of the foals created by the industry are sent to slaughter, and equally so the 'finished' mares.

happy mares and foals in a pasture

How mares and foals should be - NOT a PMU farm, here the mares and foals are outside most of the year, and the foals are bred for the purpose of resale - they are not 'unwanted' by-products of the Premarin drug industry.  Photo source.

Alternatives to Premarin?

There are alternatives to Premarin. If you are taking Premarin now ask your doctor about more humane alternatives. Be aware that physicians are paid to promote certain pills and as such may not offer you this information unless you ask.

*I want to note, that as much as I looked for copyright free photos of tie stalls in a PMU barn I was unable to find one suitable for use.  I have myself visited a PMU farm near Winfield, Alberta, but did not take pictures.

Other Factoidz by this Author

Why Horses are Slaughtered

How to Get a Better Price when Selling a Horse at Auction


Ron Siojo
Posted on Sep 18, 2010
Posted on Sep 17, 2010