Agriculture: A hormone taken in a cruel way banned from Swiss farms

The animal sector no longer wants the PMSG hormone taken at the cost of serious abuse from mares in order to treat fertility problems in sows.

The Swiss animal industry believes that the use of the hormone PMSG, which is used to treat fertility problems in sows, goes against animal welfare standards in Swiss agriculture.

USP

Good news for the animal cause. Indeed, the Swiss Farmers’ Union (USP) and Suisseporcs announce that breeders will no longer be able to use the PMSG hormone to treat fertility problems in sows. Indeed, the product is now banned and veterinarians will no longer be able to prescribe it, they announced on Monday. The new requirement applies from September 1 to all meat from farms registered with AQ-Viande Suisse, a program that covers 95% of farms in the country. The ban is valid for all categories of animals.

Not better in Iceland

The discovery that the provision of the hormone continues to be made under cruel conditions for mares (see box) is the basis of this decision, specify the two organizations. Taking this hormone in Iceland rather than South America did not bring the expected improvement, they add.

Along with Argentina and Uruguay, the Nordic island is indeed one of the last three countries in the world where this practice is still practiced. But in 2021, a video from animal welfare associations – Animal Welfare Foundation and Tierschutzbund Zürich – also showed violent abuse of mares on farms. These revelations had shocked the country. The authorities had taken the case very seriously and opened an investigation.

In very rare cases

In Switzerland, this hormone has only been used in rare cases so far, only for therapeutic purposes and on less than 1% of mother sows, point out the USP and Swissporcs. It must be said that the use of hormones to improve performance has never been authorized in Switzerland, which is why the native meat is free of any hormonal residue.

Note that the PMSG hormone has already been the subject of a parliamentary interpellation in December 2015. The former Green National Councilor Louis Schelbert had notably asked if Bern could ban it in Switzerland. The Federal Council had replied to him by asserting that it condemned the practices of direct debiting. But he believed that a ban on importing the hormone was less effective than holding market players accountable.

The PMSG hormone is used in particular for synchronizing heat (and therefore artificial insemination) in cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. But it is obtained from the blood of mares under cruel conditions. PMSG is secreted by the placenta of mares between the 40and and the 120and gestation day. To recover it, farms – in Argentina, Uruguay and Iceland – take the blood of pregnant females several times a year through the jugular vein. Each time, nearly ten liters of blood are taken (the equivalent of two liters for a man weighing 80 kilos). When the hormone is no longer produced, the mares are aborted manually and without anesthesia and the fetuses are killed so that the females can be covered again as soon as possible. Then, having become infertile, the mares end up in the slaughterhouse a few years later.

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