Pregnant mare urine is used to make conjugated estrogen tablets manufactured by a well known pharmaceutical company (which because I have not personally inspected the facilities in question nor have I personally interviewed any of the principals involved) will remain un-named in this article. The tablets are prescribed by doctors to treat symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, burning, and irritation. They also are intended to help prevent osteoporosis in post-menopausal women and replacement of estrogen in women with ovarian failure or other conditions that cause a lack of natural estrogen in the body.
At first glance the tablets may seem harmless enough but they come with a long list of possible side effects including migraine headaches, body aches, jaundice, swelling of extremities, vision, speech and balance problems, bleeding, nausea, sweating and a general ill feeling. In addition, horse lovers are up in arms about the way their beloved animals are treated in the process of collecting their coveted urine.
It seems that the pregnant mares are housed in collection barns for periods of six to eight months in conditions that are described by some as inhumane and deplorable. The mares are tethered within a small stall with a rubber cup positioned over their vulva to collect urine flow. The cup is kept in place with overhead supports and a body harness. The support system restricts movement and the mares are unable to turn or move more than a few feet. In some cases they may even be unable to lie down.
There are as many as 500 PMU farms in North America and most of them are located in the provinces of Western Canada. South Dakota and Minnesota have the questionable distinction of being home to 30 or so such farms. It is estimated that 50,000 or more mares on these PMU farms best synthetic urine give birth to as many as 40,000 foals each year. The foals of course are simply byproducts of the urine collection process and once the mares are returned to the collection barns, the foals are kept in feedlots to gain weight. Once they have reached market weight, they are slaughtered and shipped overseas for human consumption.
It has been noted that certain inspection reports have indicated some disturbing problems with this urine collection process. For example, it is said that the mares are confined for at least six months of an eleven month pregnancy without exercise, adequate bedding or grooming. Their hooves are usually neglected and they are said to be denied adequate water in order to assure a more concentrated urine which results in lower shipping costs.