I’ve just re-read Martha Grimes’ crime novel The Grave Maurice (2002), in the Jury/Plant series.
It’s one of her more overtly political books, exploring and denouncing the shameful cruelty that creates Premarin, an estrogen-replacement therapy for postmenopausal women manufactured by Wyeth-Ayerst and made from pregnant mares’ urine (PMU). It’s sold as Prempro, Premphase, Prempac, and Premelle, and it’s used by about 9 million women in the U.S., although there are a number of plant-derived and synthetic estrogens approved by the FDA as safe and effective.
To support the production of Premarin, there are an estimated 500 PMU horse farms in North America, most located in the prairie provinces of western Canada; “almost all PMU farms are under an exclusive contract to provide pregnant mares’ urine to Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories.”
The Humane Society of the U.S. has some information on the inhumane treatment of horses used to make the product: From Sept. through March or April, “each [pregnant] mare is kept tethered in a narrow stall with a rubber cup positioned over her vulva to collect the urine flow. The cup is held in place by overhead supports and a partial body harness. The tether and collection apparatus greatly restrict movement, and the mare is unable to turn around or take more than a step or two in any direction. If the tether is too short, she may even be unable to lie down comfortably.” Of course, the mares are kept pregnant, and the vast majority of the resulting foals are slaughtered, as are the mares when they are no longer productive.
If you use Premarin in any of its forms, please look into the alternatives. Project Aware has a discussion of health pros and cons, concluding that it’s time to move beyond Premarin.