Premarin: A cruel way to fight menopause

Many women, upon reaching menopause, reach for prescriptions to treat their change-of-life symptoms.

Premarin is one of the drugs women are often prescribed as a hormone replacement therapy. It stands for PREgnant MARe unINe and it’s a cruel industry. Estrogen-rich pregnant horses’ urine is harvested from horses who are forcibly impregnated, confined to tiny stalls, and forced to wear painful urine collection bags. Horses’ water consumption is restricted so their urine is more concentrate.

horsesWhen foals are born, they’re often slaughtered, but sometimes replace their poor mothers on the urine collection line.

And did I mention it’s horse piss?

Most urine is collected at farms in Canada and North Dakota, but the industry is growing overseas too. Premarin is one of the most popular drugs prescribed today. Pfizer makes billions from it.

Premarin isn’t the only name to look out for. Avoid Prempro, Premphase, and Duavee as well. They’re also made with horses’ urine. If your menopausal prescription includes “conjugated equine estrogen” or PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) just say no.

Controlling the symptoms of menopause

I get it. No one wants hot flashes, trouble sleeping, low energy, and all the other issues that goes along with a change of life. Lifestyle changes can help control symptoms: Go vegan and get exercise. Simple, yet effective. No urine ingestion needed.

If you really need medication, ask your doctor for a plant-based (phytoestrogens) or a synthetic alternative. Alternatives carry fewer risks too (Premarin increases the risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes in women).

Resources

Humane Society article

Last Chance for Animals campaign

Havehest blog

Peta factsheet

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Pony rides

As a kid, I remember riding a pony around and ’round in a circle at the fair. The ride didn’t last long, and when it was over, I moved on to the next attraction. The pony, however, had to keep working.

These days, I look at pony rides differently. Sure children aren’t heavy, but the ponies slave away in a boring circle. Maybe it’s a hot day, or a cold one. Maybe they didn’t want to get packed up in a trailer and sent to the fair. Too bad. Ponies don’t have a say.

horse and pony

Their hooves can be injured, and they can suffer from ill-fitting saddles, bridles, and bits (a bit is a metal bar that people put into a horse’s mouth, behind his or her front teeth and molars, to steer and stop the animal). And equines are exempt from protection under the Federal Animal Welfare Act, leaving welfare up to local authorities.

I recently saw a horse and pony standing out in the rain on a cold day, waiting for their shift to begin. I felt so different upon seeing them compared to when I was a kid. Of course kids love ponies–I still do. But I can’t justify a life of labor and stress for a short ride.

A carousel with replica animals and chariots is a great alternative. For those of you who like more of a rush, swings will do the trick.

Wherever you go, look for the animals. Think about what their day is like–and choose animal-free entertainment.

Horse racing: dying to win

If the Kentucky Derby and other horse races conjure up images of fancy hats and mint juleps, it’s time to take off the blinders.

Horse racing is big business, with no regard for the well-being of the horses.

Kentucky Derby

On average, 24 horses die on racetracks in the US every week. Even more are injured and killed before they ever see a race. About 30,000 foals are born every year, in the hopes that they’ll be a winner. Not all have what it takes. As a result, 10,000 thoroughbreds are sent to slaughter in Canada and Mexico every year. The situation in other countries, like the UK, Australia and Israel, is just as grim.

Horses are routinely doped up on performance-enhancing medications and pain-masking drugs. For example, many horses are given thyroxine, a thyroid medication that amps up metabolism–whether they have thyroid issues or not. Lasix, meant to prevent bleeding in the lungs during extreme exercise, is used to dehydrate horses and make them lighter on race day. Conveniently, it masks other drugs in the horses’ systems too.

These young horses are exhausted, overworked, and often train and race with painful injuries. They aren’t rewarded for winning–even though their owners can pocket over a million dollars in a big race. One sad example is Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner. He died in 2002, in a Japanese slaughterhouse, after an unsuccessful stint as a stud. Horse Racing: Where winners are eaten.

The horse racing industry enslaves these horses and forces them to be athletes. Some don’t make the cut, but even the fast ones face a short, miserable life.

As with so many industries that exploit animals, humans are exploited too. Stable workers are often undocumented and work long, hard hours for little pay and often sleep in the barns and tack rooms, not the staff quarters.

What to do?

  • NEVER attend or bet on a horse race!
  • Support humans events (where people choose to compete) like track and field.
  • Watch this short exposé by PETA (warning: graphic language).
  • Read about the similar plight of horses in the UK.
  • Use this form to send a letter to your US representatives and senators urging them to increase penalties for doping. (Please click here if you live in the UK, here if you live in Canada, and here for all other international locations.)

The sad lives of carriage horses

I love New York, but one of the things I don’t like about the city that never sleeps is the carriage horse industry.

Many cities, including the one I live in (Seattle) and one I visited this spring (Savannah), offer horse-and-carriage rides. Approximately 1000-2000 horses are used across the country. These hansom cabs, might evoke an old-world feeling but they’re anything but romantic. Carriages belong in the history books.

sad horse

Horses in the carriage industry are often castoffs from the harness racing industry or from Amish communities and come to the city with pre-existing health problems. They develop further health issues from walking on pavement all day and breathing exhaust from trucks, cars and buses. They work all day in freezing cold and scorching heat and they’re stored in warehouses at night.

They’re never sent out to pasture, and have no government protection. Carriage owners are legally allowed to work their horses 9 hours a day, seven days a week–whether horses like it or not.

don't take a ride

The average working life of a carriage horse is only four years. In fact, about a third, or approximately 70, of the New York City carriage horses are eliminated from the Department of Health horse registry every year. When they’re spent, they’re usually auctioned off for slaughter or rendering plants for dog food companies or zoos.

stuck in traffic

The horses suffer and people are endangered too. Horses get spooked easily and can run into traffic. In New York there have been more than 18 accidents involving horses in the past two years. It’s a largely unregulated industry.

It’s a half-hour ride for patrons, but it’s a lifetime of misery for the horses.

Toronto, Paris, London, Las Vegas, Beijing and many other cities have already banned carriage horses. A fun horseless carriage idea is brewing that could replace horses in New York and still be fun and romantic.

In Savannah, I opted to take a pedicab ride. The man peddling told me he enjoys the job and that it’s paying for his college.

pedicabs instead

What to do?

  • Never patronize carriage rides, and tell your family and friends why they shouldn’t. From newlyweds to tourists, it’s the people paying for the rides that keep this industry in business.
  • If your city allows carriages on city streets, urge your legislators to propose legislation that will ban it.

Update (Jan 2, 2014) – New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has vowed to ban horse-drawn carriages in the city and retire the horses to sanctuaries. Money to help the horses is probably still needed and horses in other cities still need help. This promise is great news, and a good way to keep momentum going for the horses.

Resources: