Written by: Heather Clemenceau
The story goes that Cleopatra famously bathed in ass’s milk to keep her skin young and beautiful, so I guess I’m not surprised to learn that horse milk is being promoted as a beautifying treatment and a medicine. That’s because I long ago realized that the human power of belief is inexhaustible. It seems that the obscure horse milk industry claims to cure or benefit people with stomach and G.I tract problems, eczema, psoriasis, various neuroses, and all manner of infections. I looked at several websites shilling for horse milk, and it struck me that Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis might be reaching out to a new, wider audience by moonlighting as a copywriter for these companies.
Apparently, horse milk was popular in Germany that during the First World War – this, despite reading accounts that indicated that mares were never likely to become dairy animals for several reasons including the small quantities of milk they could produce. Yet now there are dozens of small and medium-scale operations in France, Belgium and Holland, in addition to Germany and Austria. And now in the United States as well.
I checked the Pubmed database to see what studies had been conducted on horse milk and mare’s milk, and found a total of 81 studies, most of which had no direct application to humans. This is actually a pretty small number of studies, most of which were done in Russia and the Middle East, where drinking unpasteurized milk is more common. These handful of studies are all preliminary studies that typically report the results of using horse milk rather than using a blinded control. There are also a few small, poor quality studies suggesting a possible benefit in mare’s colostrum to improve wound healing and fermented mare’s milk to reduce the toxic effects of mercury. Yet another study seems to show that children allergic to cows milk might be able to tolerate horse milk. All in all, the research doesn’t amount to much, and there was nothing suggesting that horse milk had been studied for properties that it could cure skin conditions – sorry Cleopatra. There was certainly nothing that suggested horse milk had therapeutic properties that could reduce or eliminate serious disease. Therefore, based on the evidence at hand, horse milk “therapy” could probably be classed as experimental treatment at best. The existing studies justify doing more (and better quality) research, but they don’t justify prescribing it to treat patients for disease.
There were a couple of studies that suggested reasons for caution, although not for horse milk specifically. Brucellosis is endemic in parts of the Middle East, and one of the main sources brucellosis infection was unpasteurized milk. While this study refers to camel milk, the imperative to avoid drinking unpasteurized milk of any species is clear, since unpasteurized milk can promote bacterial growth.
Undeterred by the lack of scientific evidence, the horse milk marketers, perhaps not dissimilar to the horse meat marketers, have found a niche though. Skeptics regularly critique pseudo-scientific and often anti-scientific ideas – ideas that are irrational and not based on evidence commensurate with the extraordinary nature of the claim. These are ideas that usually rely on magical thinking, are rarely tested to see if they are real, and they are usually resistant to reason and contrary evidence. Irrational beliefs and magical thinking, sometimes referred to in the sceptics community as “woo,” should be ridiculed. In a not-so-ironic coincidence, the Chinese word “Wū” (巫) means a shaman, usually with magic powers. So it’s within the alt-med or “woo” community that horse milk purveyors have found their target market.
Here’s some of the completely unsubstantiated and unbelievable claims about mare’s milk from the Horsemilkery de Lage Wierde, a company in the Netherlands. All grammatical and spelling mistakes are their own:
“I am also taking a cure of horse milk, I have very bad eczema on my head for two years and there was nothing that helped. But now I drink that horse milk I notice a lot of difference. It is not going away all but it is getting less a lot. So it really is an absolute must. To my opinion it tastes very filthy. For people who agree with me, you can use orangeade so it will taste better.”
“I am having the sickness of Chrohn for eight years and I am drinking horsemilk since six years because it went really bad with my bowels so I started drinking horsemilk. The first two weeks I had some trouble to get used to the horsemilk but after that the complaints decreased. Now I only have to go once a day to the toilet and do not have complaints any longer. Now I only drink horsemilk three times a week to keep myself in a proper condition, so despite the chronical sickness of Chrohn it continues to go well with me.”
“I have trouble with eczema on my hands for the last six months. I was becoming desperate. I have tried various kinds of creams, but nothing really helped. Continuously I walked with damaged fingers with band-aid on them. For almost two weeks now I drink horse milk. Already after one week I saw clearly a result and the eczema is as good as gone. I can hardly believe it myself, but it really happened. So it works for me!”
“I am using horse milk for six weeks now for I have serious psoriasis, really bad. It is getting a lot better. I am not yet clean like they call it, but I will continue using horsefly because it really works. You just have to be patient (sometimes)”
“Horse milk is a wonder cure for me! I have trouble with serious eczema for years and after drinking horse milk for four months is my eczema almost entirely disappeared. I will continue using it, perseverance pays. But I am not longer embarrassed by it and it doesn’t itch any longer! Before I used horse milk I tried dozens of ointments and cures without any result. I recommend everyone to use horse milk!”
‘’yes, I drink horsemilk regularly. I have Colitis Ulcerosa (chronic bowel sickness) and when I read that horsemilk would help real good, I started trying it. And it really helps indeed! When I had this period again with lots of cramp, pain, diarrhoea ( with blood), bloated feeling then the horsemilk relieved me after one day already! Horsemilk is so special because the compilation of it is comparable with mothermilk. Drinking horsemilk stimulates the growth of the good bacteria of the intestinal flora and purifies the blood. (so it is also good for a smooth skin!). Furthermore it is stamina enlarging as well. Eczema, hayfever or cowmilk allergy will also disappear or decrease mostly by drinking the horsemilk. I benefit a lot of of it, but I do not drink it every day, because horsemilk is rather expensive for me. But as soon as I notice trouble I drink horsemilk for a week!’’
“Since one and a half year I drink horse milk every day and I am very satisfied about the results. Before that I had trouble with eczema and paroxysm. My symptoms became a lot less. They are not completely gone, which I notice mostly in time of stress. But when I stop drinking horse milk my symptoms return. Unfortunately it is very expensive, a cure of four weeks is 45 Euros, but I think it is really worth it. I recommend it to everybody who has eczema!”
The horsemilk that released me of my annoying, troublesome ailments!
“About five years ago I got infections to my left eyelids. The advice of my specialist was: ‘’cleanse it several times a day with warm water!’’ Soon my right eyelids got also infected. Reading, just as watching television became a big problem, because of the dirt out of the infection ruffled the sight of my eyes and it also changed shapes. This gave me big trouble riding my car, traffic signs where only readable when I was very close by. ….. After using different kinds of salves and cures for my eyes and even after going to the hospital a couple of times to have my eyes cleaned with petrol, the ailment had been found chronic and they told me I just had to learn to live with it. It is hard when it feels like you have sand in your eyes continually. One of my friends had heard of horsemilk. On internet we found out what a magic-cure this could be. Horsemilkery ‘De Lage Wierde’ from Cor and Ina de Winter at Wirdum was the closest in the neighbourhood. An appointment had been made fast and with twenty-eight quarter liters milk I went home, starting the cure. One cup of a quarter a litre a day. It took four months before I could notice and feel any result.”
After reading all these so-called testimonials, a few things stand out. The translations are so botched that you really don’t know what they’re saying. Surely there is at least one person in the Netherlands who doesn’t have to rely on Google Translate? Pubmed has nothing on horse milk and Crohn’s disease – no clinical studies on psoriasis or eczema or paroxysm. Even if these testimonials are true, how did they rule out spontaneous remission? And to the woman who has problems with her fingers from “walking” on them, perhaps she wouldn’t need to experiment if she just walked on her feet? And eyes cleaned with petrol? In a hospital? No wonder the guy was looking for an alternative treatment.
Then we have these purveyors of woo (a site which also contains ads for Russian girlfriends) They claim that:
“… the food eaten by wild horses come from natural forests and it is considered more useful. Wild horse’s milk is good for digestion because its protein chains is more easily digested by the body. With healthy digestion, people will become more fit.”
“Horsemilk stimulates the imuum system, helps to build a good intestinal flora and has a positive influence on a dry and sensitive skin.”
And somewhat surprisingly, according to the Draft Horse Journal:
“The first reason for drinking horse milk is, of course, not cosmetic but medical, especially for metabolical, gastrointestinal and liver problems, but also for recovering after surgery and severe illness, cholesterol problems, allergy to cows’ milk, stress, skin problems, stiff joints or just to keep fit and well. Horse milk strengthens the body, boosts the immune system and increases a person’s energy and vitality. In the case of metabolic disorders, it stimulates internal cleansing.”
“Best of all, taste test show that consumers clearly prefer horse milk to dog and cat milk,”
A thousand WTFs. What consumers participated in taste tests on dog and cat milk? Does this seem like a legitimate article that we’d expect to find in the Draft Horse Journal?
And you knew the fetishists would get in on the action too – From the Burleson Arabians website:
“The adrenaline rush from milking a high-strung Arabian mare is like nothing else, and milking any horse can be very dangerous. Unlike cows, mares have the placement of their teats centered directly between their powerful rear legs.”
Somebody better go back to the barn and have a good look at a cow. Or perhaps they’re inferring that you can never be kicked by a cow while milking? Makes you wonder where the term “cow kick” originated……..
A French company – Chevalait advertises that they provide “jobs” for 100 Percheron & Trait du Nord Mares. The current production of mare’s milk at Chevalait is around 70,000 liters (18,424 gallons) a year. Of this, 40,000 liters is fresh milk that is distributed all over France and Europe, and even as far as Singapore, through a network of organic stores, and the rest is used for powdered milk and to produce a range of cosmetic products that includes soap, shampoo and body milk. The efforts of Chevalait were recognized in 2011 when they were awarded first prize in the Development, Innovation and Technical Know-How category of the annual Prix de la Dynamique Agricole (Agricultural Dynamism Prize) sponsored by the Banque Populaire. Sounds like another Ag-industry award to me…….
God help horses and their foals. How many foals are produced out of the production of 70,000 litres of milk? No mention of what happens to them though.
The attraction some have for horse milk seems to be because horses eat a more natural diet, at least relative to cows and other “farmed” animals. Health scares such as BSE, and the desire to avoid antibiotics and recombinant bovine growth hormones normally dispensed to cows are probably part of the attraction too. The fact that these companies are apparently viable and able to expand and produce multiple product lines is why Sue Wallis and other slaughter profiteers might try to get in on the ground floor of this one. In one of her manifestos published in one of her multiple companies, she promoted the consumption of horse milk.
Rains Natural Meats is not able to kill horses at this time, but they are located in close proximity to Elmer Beechy, an Amish kill buyer in Jamesport, Missouri. Apparently the Amish in Jamesport are raising horses for milk production, and this is one of the markets that David Rains probably intended to exploit – slaughtering “spent” dairy mares and their unwanted foals, along with other horses who’ve had the misfortune of ending up at an auction in or near Missouri.
Ooh La Leche appears to be that Amish horse dairy located in Jamestown. The c.v. for their CEO, Jan France, includes a consultancy with the State of Wyoming, preceded by some runway modelling, followed by a stint as a copywriter, a teacher of marketing classes, a writer of commercials, technical advisor for movies, Texas House Representative, and Founder / CEO of America’s Disaster Relief. Sounds like Jan is more than one person or a conglomeration of several people! What’s odd is that her Linkedin Profile indicates that she left the company in September 2013 after being with Ooh La Leche for just 3 months. Another red flag is that no matter where you look on the website, you will not be able to determine where this company has its bricks and mortar office – but apparently this has not prevented many gullible or uninformed people from purchasing edibles off the internet without even enquiring where the company is based.
Consistent with all the horse milk producers noted previously, Ooh Lla Leche claims that its horse milk:
“will reduce symptoms of”
stimulate internal cleansing
stiff joints, headache pain, and stress
naturally increase energy and vitality
boost the immune system
reduce cholesterol levels
stomach, digestion, and liver problems
Again, it seems science hasn’t yet bothered to test any of the above claims. However, I gave the company the opportunity to prove otherwise and wrote to them asking for proof of any case-controlled, co-horted, double-blinded studies that show a correlation between horse milk and the cessation or lessening of any of these ailments. So if there is a response, it will likely be ridiculous enough to function as a stand-alone blog subject. Stay tuned……..
Some people may question, what is the harm in letting people try these “cures?” These testimonials are really problematic because they suggest to the uninformed reader that horse milk cures all these things, including bloody diarrhea, which could be a symptom of a life-threatening disease. The harm is that, while they’re drinking milk under the belief that they are curing themselves, in actuality they may be facilitating death by not properly treated a bona fide disease. This is not only true of mare’s milk but of any quackery or “woo” therapy.
Time will tell if we see more false claims about horse milk in the coming year in the US. I guess it’s only a matter of time before someone decides mares’ milk cures erectile dysfunction or cancer. But the marketing of horse milk means that another species of animal is going to suffer even more. I’m sure that if some of these unscrupulous entrepreneurs could figure out a way to get milk from a California condor, they would do it. These companies don’t indicate whether foals are kept by the mother’s side during the milking process, or whether they are removed at some point. But it’s clear that there will be excess animals produced, just as in the PMU industry, because horse slaughter is not just for old, sick, and lame animals.
These companies are pulling the wool over the eyes of the consumer. Not only that, they are promoting and defending all the same misdeeds associated with the traditional dairy industry, along with horse slaughter. Just as in the case of any other harmful or worthless drug or therapy, horse advocates need to alert the FDA to the deceptive and misleading claims of efficacy made by these horse milk companies operating in the US.