pigs feeding

The UK pig sector has defended its production standards amid claims hormones from horse blood are being used in the pig meat supply chain.

Campaigners have alleged a hormone extracted from the blood of horses and kept on unregulated farms in South America is being sold to British vets and farmers to increase pig production.

The hormone, called Pregnant Mare’s Serum Gonadotropin (PMSG), has been used in pig farming for meat products such as bacon and sausages sold in Britain, according to a report on “vampire farms” in today’s (26 January) Daily Mirror.

The Animal Welfare Foundation, which first exposed the horse farms in South America in 2015, said the hormone could only be extracted from the jugular vein, and was done so at a rate too high for the mares to stay healthy.

Seven PMSG products are sold in the UK according to the Daily Mirror report. However, it also admitted it was unclear how widespread PMSG use is in the UK because there is no obligation on farmers or supermarkets to declare which products used the hormone.

The National Pig Association defended industry practices, saying the use of the product was not standard in the UK.

“We are aware that a small number of products containing PMSG are authorised for use in pigs in the UK for the induction and synchronisation of oestrus [period of sexual receptivity],” said NPA chief executive Zoe Davies.

“However, from extensive enquiries our understanding is that these products are used very little, if at all, in UK pig production as good management such as boar presence, sow nutrition and proper lighting means that sows naturally return to oestrus after weaning, which negates the need to use them.”

The product would “never be used in pigs destined for meat”, added Davies.

A petition calling on the EU to ban imports of PMSG to Europe was launched two weeks ago by animal welfare group Avaaz, and now has over 1.6 million signatures.