Duchess Sanctuary


The Pregnant Mare Urine (PMU) Industry: What you need to know

Marie, in her former life as a PMU horse, before she was rescued by the Ark Watch Foundation and eventually brought to Duchess where she lived out the rest of her days in comfort and peace.

The Pregnant Mare Urine or PMU Industry produces pharmaceuticals containing the urine of impregnated horses. Many consumers are unaware of the cruel and inhumane treatment these horses often endure. They are routinely impregnated and confined to stalls for the sole purpose of facilitating the collection of their urine. The products are used to treat symptoms of menopause, but the advertising doesn’t mention the source of the ingredients.

Between our Duchess Sanctuary in Oregon and the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Texas, The Fund for Animals is caring for and providing lifetime sanctuary to more than 150 horses saved from the PMU industry.

Read on to learn more about what’s currently happening in the PMU Industry.

Q: What is PMU?
A: PMU stands for Pregnant Mare Urine. The hormones in the urine are used to manufacture Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) products for women. The most commonly known drug produced with equine urine is Premarin®, now manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (Pfizer purchased Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the original manufacturer of the drug, in 2009). Other products include Prempro®, Premphase® and the newly approved Duavee®—a combination osteoporosis-menopause drug. In 1990, Premarin® was the most widely prescribed drug in the United States and in 1997 it became Wyeth’s first one billion dollar drug.

Q: How are the horses used?
A: Pregnant mares are often kept in narrow tie stalls for approximately 6 months of the year with a urine collection harness in place. It’s an inhumane life for an animal designed to be in near constant motion. While in theory they have room to lie down, they cannot turn around or take more than a few steps forwards or backwards. In addition to the hardship for the mares, many of the resulting foals end up in the slaughter pipeline because they are considered by-products of this industry.

Q: How many horses are affected?
A: Although the number of mares in PMU barns has decreased significantly from an estimated high of 55-60,000 in the late 1990’s, and there are no farms operating in the United States, right now there are reportedly 2,500 to 3,000 mares on PMU farms in Canada. In addition, Pfizer is now contracting with PMU farms overseas in countries like China, Poland and Kazakhstan.

Q: Was a decrease in Premarin® and Prempro® use a decade ago linked to safety and health concerns?
A: Questions about links between Premarin® and Prempro® and the development of various cancers including breast and ovarian, as well as other life threatening conditions such as stroke and heart disease, led to a decline in use of these drugs over a decade ago. As a result, the market began to downsize significantly, causing many of the PMU ranches in North America to close their doors when they lost their contracts, which unfortunately resulted in many of the PMU mares being sent to slaughter.

Q: What can women do?
A: Don’t purchase HRT products and speak with your doctor about alternative treatments, including natural remedies that don’t support the PMU industry or animal testing.

Q: What can the average person do?
A: You can be the voice for these horses by helping people understand the reality of how these drugs are made. Educate your family, friends and coworkers about these cruelty-riddled products. Share with your social networks online and encourage them to spread the word about this cruel industry. Write letters to your newspaper, magazines or websites you visit—especially those featuring ads for Premarin®, PremPro®, PremPhase® or Duavee®. And support rescue groups and sanctuaries that care for PMU horses, like our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch and Duchess Sanctuary.