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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

27 January 2004 Issue

Premarin: RX for Cruelty

The maker of Premarin, Wyeth-Ayerst, a drug division of global giant American Home Products, and the PMU industry insist that the manufacture of Premarin is not cruel, but just a form of profitable horse husbandry. You be the judge.

The Premarin Mares

To produce Premarin, an estimated 35,000 mares are forced to stand in barns throughout Canada and parts of the Midwestern United States for about six months out of every year with urine collection devices strapped onto them.

Even by the self-serving standards of corporations, Wyeth-Ayerst's suggested (but not mandated) 4 1/2-foot wide stalls for pregnant draft horses weighing up to 1700 are ungenerous. The stalls are deliberately kept narrow to prevent pregnant mares from turning or lying down with their legs stretched out for fear the collection cups will become detached as the urine is "harvested." And, worse yet, many of these mares get little or no exercise for the six months they are forced to stand in the barns. (The most recent "voluntary" Code of Practice for the industry states that the mares only be exercised on an as-needed basis.)

Their water intake also is regulated and restricted, all of which can lead to swollen legs, sore hooves and other health problems. And then, when these mares are too tired, too old or too surly to stand on the "pee lines," their reward is the auctions and a likely trip to the slaughterhouse.

The Premarin Foals

The story is just as tragic for the Premarin foals. The PMU farmers and Wyeth-Ayerst would like us to believe that the estimated 35,000 foals resulting from these pregnancies are sold as companion animals. A very few may be and a few more fillies are allowed to grow up and replace their worn-out mothers. However, most, especially the male colts, are weaned too early, taken to auction where they're sold by the pound to killer-buyers, fattened in feed lots and then sent straight to slaughter.

There, these sensitive, highly social young animals are made to wait their turn for death with the smell of blood in their nostrils and the sound of horses screaming in their ears. And for what? So that Wyeth-Ayerst can sell their animal-based hormone replacement therapy (HRT) Premarin when there is plant-based HRT available. And so that restaurants in France and Japan can serve foal steaks to connoisseurs of cruelty! (Foal steak sells for up to $15 a pound in some Paris butcher shops.)

PMU Oversight

Where are the horse industry watch dogs and why don't they do something? Well, here they are: The American Association of Equine Practitioners issued a position statement in 1997 that said PMU farmers represent "responsible management of horses to produce a commodity for the benefit of mankind." They did not address the concern that foals born to these mares are sent to slaughter. When asked why, they replied, "We take a position on how horses are treated until they go to slaughter." Julie Kimball, AAEP's Director of Communications, added, "The AAEP is not endorsing the industry. We are just saying it is safe and responsible."

To accept the idea that the PMU industry is responsible takes a real stretch of the imagination. According to Ride! magazine (March 1997), the Winnipeg (Canada) Humane Society reported that 83 percent of foals born at Premarin farms go to slaughter. The percentage of foals to slaughter is lower in the United States, but the number is not insignificant.

And again, the AAEP contends that Premarin farms are run by good old family horse breeders, but is this the case? Many such farms are no better than "warehouse" operations with no purpose other than to collect PMU. Says Robin Duxbury, of Project Equus, "They even solicit pregnant mares by offering free winter board."

It Isn’t Even Necessary: Alternatives to Premarin

The drug company that supports these practices, Wyeth-Ayerst, claims that Premarin "…contains a mixture of estrogens obtained exclusively from natural sources…"

Natural? Of the more than 50 horse estrogens, Dr. Christiane Northrup, former Diplomate American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, recently stated for publication that not one "…is native to the human female body."

Over 3,000,000 horses have been slaughtered in the last ten years, most by foreign-owned slaughterhouses in the United States and Canada to supply the overseas meat market. The PMU industry is a major supplier of this horse flesh.

And for the 35,000 or more mares hooked to urine collection devices it may get worse before it gets better. Much worse.

For the next decade, a large number of women from the baby boomer generation will enter menopause, over 40,000,000 women, more than four times the number now on Premarin. How many more horses will it take to provide this drug for them? Twice as many? Three times? More?

NO! We don't think women will close their eyes to increased long-term suffering for mares and death for their foals once they know the facts - because this is a cruelty women can fix at the prescription counter. For every 150 women who change from Premarin to a plant-derived estrogen, one mare is taken off the line or is never hooked to a collection cup - and seven or eight foals will not be slaughtered for their meat.

This is why UAN urges all women on Premarin to ask their doctors if one of the plant-based (synthetic generic conjugated estrogen) hormone replacement therapies will work just as well for them. And tell them why you’re asking.

Hormone replacement therapy is essential for many women, not only to alleviate the problems of menopause, but also to protect against heart disease, osteoporosis and other serious problems afflicting women in maturity. Still, you don't have to take Premarin. Ask your doctor if he/she will prescribe a plant-derived or synthetic HRT such as Cenestin, Estrace, Estraderm, Ogen, OrthoEst, Estratab, Menest, Estinyl, Estrovirus, OrthoDienestrol or Tace many made from yam or soy.

Yes, Yam! Low-dose estrogen derived from yams and soy may protect women from osteoporosis just as well as today's higher-dose pills made from horse urine. And it has fewer side effects.

Only by reducing the market for Premarin can we hope to reduce the profit in running a pregnant mare's urine collection barn and selling the living by-products to be slaughtered and eaten.


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