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'A quarter of the world's timber grows within Siberia’s boundaries'
W.Bruce Lincoln

Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?

By The Siberian Times reporter
25 August 2015

How velvet antlers are cut from Maral stags to produce cure-all remedies loved in Asia.

For modern women, the treatments are said to offer myriad benefits. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

In Europe and America, there is a growing market for treatments made from the testosterone-driven blood of Siberian Red Deer from here in the pristine Altai Mountains. Such remedies have been known for centuries in Russia and especially Asian countries such as China and Korea, where taking baths in blood from the severed pre-ossified antlers of these Maral deer, or even drinking the deep red liquid, were popular long ago.

For modern women, the treatments are said to offer myriad benefits from 'ageing reversal' to lowering stress and improving the complexion. For men, blood from these 'horns of gold' - as they were described in Russian literature dating back to the 15th century - promises an increase in libido and sexual performance.

But now animal welfare organisations are questioning the methods used to obtain the antlers and blood, amid claims that the 'barbarian' process which causes severe pain to the deer is equivalent to the lopping off of a limb in a human.

Here at Novotalitskoye Farm, some 640 kilometres south of Novosibirsk, around 4,000 Maral deer, including 2,000 stags, are bred especially to serve this remedy industry. Annually about 3,000 specially preserved antlers - costing $300 per kilogram - are exported, primarily to South Korea. 

Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?
Before the cutting begins. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya


The antlers grow at a phenomenal rate, as much as 2.5 cm (1 inch) a day. They often reach 71 cm (28 inches) in total length and can grow much larger, for example to 115 cm (45 inches). Previously, these Marals were slaughtered and the antlers removed, with poachers almost wiping out this elegant sub-species of deer in the Altai Mountains. Now they are cut annually, and in a good stag the farmer will harvest antlers for 15 or even 17 years. 

At Novotalitskoye, which employs 300 locals and is a key source of employment, these Siberian deer roam free in huge fenced pastures, forested areas mixed with meadows and natural sources of water. Locals call the deer's blood 'living water' and say that its health-giving qualities are so strong because the animals graze on more than 20 types of special herbs.

When the velvet antler-cutting time comes - usually in late May, until the end of July - the breeders push stags aged from two to two-and-a-half into fenced areas to examine if they are 'ripe' and ready to have their antlers removed.

To the unschooled eye, the antlers of any two stags appear identical: only experienced locals know which creature is ready and which needs more time.

The crown of 'ripe' antlers 'is shaped in a special way', says one deer-handler ecliptically. Miss the moment to cut - and there is a leeway or only one or two days - then the antlers get too 'bony' or ossified, losing most of their healing qualities.

If antlers weigh less than six kilograms, the stag is deemed inferior and it will be slaughtered in autumn. A large stag's antlers can weigh as much as 15 kilograms.

Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?
The antlers grow at a phenomenal rate, as much as 2.5 cm (1 inch) a day. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya


Preparations for cutting begin before 5 am, with workers galloping around the pastures, which are surrounded by some 70 km of fencing, forcing stags into a smaller sorting area. The does, or female deer, are exempt from the bloody process that it about to unfold. 

Chief technician Mikhail showed us the stags selected for today's antler cutting.

'Don't get too close,' he warned, 'otherwise they might panic and break their antlers before we get going.'

He explained the procedure. 'The stags will be ushered into the cutting area along a narrow wooden fenced path. If you hear screams, don't worry, our guys need to shout to get the animals going.'

The stags - all tagged with individual numbers - are forced down a narrow pen, the farmhands yelling at them like an army of Comanches. They are ushered into a small shed, and one by one they are pushed into the cutting room, resembling a large wooden box. More shouting, the animals are guided with sticks into position. 

Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?
In the cutting room is a 'press', which closes in on the stag from each side, while the floor lowers, so the deer is left in suspended animation, its head resting on a ledge, its hooves flailing but unable to touch the ground. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya


In the cutting room is a 'press', which closes in on the stag from each side, while the floor lowers, so the deer is left in suspended animation, its head resting on a ledge, its hooves flailing but unable to touch the ground. The magnificent creature looks around bewildered, its eye suddenly bulging with fright. Four or five men are inside the cutting chamber, cursing loudly with Russian swear words, a process evidently used to intimidate the animal into submission. 

Two or three stand on the stag's back from above, one holds the prized antlers, his trainer on the animals muzzle, immobilising the head; one cuts the antlers, his foot on the back of the neck, preventing the beast moving a centimetre until it is divested of its valuable trophy.

A rope leashed to the antler is held fast by another man outside the cutting shed. 

Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?
One shift can process up to 100 stags, but usually the number is nearer 50. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya


The deer react in different ways. Some surrender to their fate, and give up; others seem angry, even furious, and fight every inch to escape.

If a stag is 'wild', the team - some wearing military fatigues - immediately saw off the antlers. If not, they first take about three litres of blood out of the creature's jugular vein using a pump.

The actual cutting of the antlers takes a minute or two, no more. The animal is secured by the press, then an electric saw is used to slice off the antler. 

The stags moan as the antlers are cut; many grind their teeth, saliva foaming on their lips.  

Mikhail said it the slicing of the antlers is 'equal in feeling to your hand being chopped off', but other workers here reckon it is more akin 'to your nails being cut'. 

The deed done, a coagulating powder and clay is daubed on the open wounds to stop the bleeding. 

The stag's proud crown removed, the workers clear out of the way, and the press is released. A man called Vasily opens the door and the deer jumps outside. 

They leap to freedom of the cutting chamber door, but then some stop in their tracks, evidently fearing some other threat awaits them, unclear which way to turn.  

One shift can process up to 100 stags, but usually the number is nearer 50. 

Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?
Mikhail said it the slicing of the antlers is 'equal in feeling to your hand being chopped off', but other workers here reckon it is more akin 'to your nails being cut'. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya


Then begins the treating and preserving of the precious antlers using a time-honoured tradition in the Altai Mountains. Suspended from a hanger,  the antlers are dipped several times, usually three or four, into a hot water vat - with a temperature of 92C to 94C. 

Then they are taken into a drying room. Next day the whole process is repeated. The antlers are 'fried' in a sauna-like heat room but the technicians ensure the blood inside them does not boil. The preserved antlers lose half of their original weight. 

Back with the workers cutting the antlers, many take a swig of the fresh stag blood: all of them are certain that it possesses unbeatable healing and stimulating qualities. Being so close to this elixir, a natural Viagra, they don't want to miss their chance. 

They are not the only ones who believe this. A constant stream of health tourists come to the farm to bathe in the blood of the deer, attracted by the boasts of these ancient treatments. 

As the farm's website explains: 'Extract from red deer antlers acts as a strong tonic, especially for men's potency. It strengthens the body's bones, muscles, teeth, eye sight and hearing, cures pleurisy, pneumonia, asthma, joint pain, osteoporosis, and problems with the spine.'

Specificially, it is Pantocrin from the antlers which is believed to have multiple healing effect on heart, blood vessels, digestive system, activates regenerative processes and generally works as a very strong stimulator and energy booster. 

Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?
'Deer blood is a Klondike of vitamins and amino acids'. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya


Products made from Pantrocin, from farms such as this, are well advertised on the web or available from alternative medicine outlets, offering health benefits to both sexes. Sergey Pastukhov, a married father of one, runs a house adjacent to the farm where tourists stay as they undergo therapeutic 'blood bath' treatments.

'It was our ancestors, the Cossacks, who lived here and noticed how Chinese people made cedar baths, boiled stags antlers, and took baths in that water,' he explained. 

'As you make such a bath, you must keep an extremely strict temperature regime, the water mustn't boil. At this stage of their growth, I compare antlers to the human arm, with lots of blood inside - in fact, a lot more than the arm contains. 

'Imagine five or ten metres of fabric, soaked in blood - this is what we get from antlers. Water used for 'cooking' antlers is believed to be extremely healthy - but you've got to take such baths only next to red deer farms for the best results.'

Otherwise, the benefits are diluted. 'Baths are taken with the deep red water temperature at 37C to 41C, from eight to 30 minutes depending on the bather's health.'

He is adamant about the health-giving properties, reeling off a long list of supposed curing capabilities. 

'Deer blood is a Klondike of vitamins and amino acids; blood baths treat chondrosis, eases blood pressure, wipes away problems with joints, sorts conditions like gastric ulcers and a number of heart and blood vessel complaints,' he said with total confidence. 

'Russians, and Westerners too, do not pay attention to this kind of treatment, certainly not as much as it deserves, but people in the East knew and loved it for centuries. Blood baths slow ageing and activate what I call 'love of life' - people become a lot happier after a course of treatment. 

'They certainly improve potency, and those who have no problems with it have to be careful taking baths.

'Young girls say their skin and hair are velvet and silk after our baths. No spa could compare to the effect of these blood baths. People suffering from hair loss find they grow their hair back. I even see that grass grows faster in the corner where I empty the baths. It is literally a life-giving water'.

Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?
'You feel euphoric after the first bath, like you are flying'. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya


Usually, people are urged to take a course of ten baths, one a day. 'Another option is a five-day course with baths in the morning and evening.

'For those with a long-term or heavy disease, blood baths don't guarantee cure, it's true, but they do guarantee significant easing of symptoms.'

He admits, though, that despite the many medical claims for deer blood cures, their most frequent clients are men of a certain age seeking to rejuvenate their sexual prowess.

'Our main clients are men in their early 40s and older. People travel to us from all over Russia.'

Lying in a blood bath, Sergei's wife Larisa Pastukhova, 44, also eulogised the beneficial effects. 'You feel euphoric after the first bath, like you are flying,' she said.

'After a second bath symptoms of some chronic diseases which you have - if you do - get stronger, to then be healed.

'For example, my 65 year old mother had issues with her joints, and doctors told her she would face real problems unless she had surgery. She decided to try the baths, a course of ten. When she arrived here, she had to be assisted to walk, as it was painful to lift her feet.

'For three years after she took the baths, she forgot about having joints, and only this year some of the problems came back.

'So now she is due to have another set of baths.'

Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?
The use of deer velvet for medicine has been traced to a silk scroll found in a tomb in Hunan China dating back to 168 BC. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya


Another satisfied customer was Tamara, aged 60. 'I had huge issues with blood pressure and joints, all of them were gone after the blood baths,' she insisted. 'Not only that, I no longer get colds as often as I used to, and nor do my grandchildren who also took the baths.'

Our photographer Vera Salnitskaya tried one bath. 'It feels nice and relaxing to take it, the only issue is the smell of the blood, not quite pleasant, but you quickly get used to it. My skin felt really soft and moisturised, as if I'd been using a lot of creme.'

A course of ten baths costs 7,500 roubles ($107) while a room at the Pastukhov's guest house costs a modest 2,500 roubles ($35) for five days. Their guest house can host up to six people. 

How true are the medical benefits? 

'Maral blood and preparations based on it have 'adaptogenic' properties allowing the human body to adapt to any changes and withstand daily stresses,' according to Alexander Shebalin, technical director of the Moscow Anti-Doping Medical Centre, and author of the Maral blood vacuum processing method.

'In particular, a bath with Maral blood removes lactic acid from the body. Patients feel a surge of energy and the body is in fact rejuvenated.'

Shebalin himself produces dried blood in Altai for further manufacturing of medications. It is dried using specially patented equipment that he and his  colleagues have developed themselves. These preparations are used in high performance sports, he claimed in 2012. Non-doping medications are made for athletes, he said.

His clients include famous tennis players, boxers, hockey players, skiers, football players and other athletes. 

Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?
A course of ten baths costs 7,500 roubles ($107). Picture: Vera Salnitskaya


The researcher also says that preparations obtained from Maral blood can be used not only for preventing diseases and stimulating body functions, but also for treating many serious diseases, for example a blood-based gel is used to ease psoriasis. Making a claim of an entirely different order, he asserted that Maral-based drugs 'significantly boost the human immune system and reduce the risks of developing diseases such as cancer'.

Alongside this, he listed the familiar roll call of benefits. These products help combat chronic fatigue, improve sexual function and treat allergies, including in children. Such gels have a regenerating effect, can help get rid of cellulite and speed up the healing of haematomas.

'Doctors say that carbon-13 isotope is released during the cooking of antlers,' said Alexei Nepriyatel, deputy director of the National Medical Research Institute for Velvet Antlers Production, in Barnaul. 'When a patient takes an antler bath, the isotope penetrates the skin and subcutaneous tissue reaching the body's cells and thus improving the recovery processes. 

'In addition, when patients take velvet antler baths with Maral blood, lipoproteins in deer blood go through the skin and penetrate bone cells affecting the bone marrow, which is in charge of the immune system, the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system. All of this helps build healthier bodies.'

Korean doctors, he said, believe that all people regardless of their condition should undergo a velvet antler treatment once a year.

However, he rejected that medical evidence existed of the use of antler treatments in helping combat cancer.

'Such products can spontaneously trigger the growth of cancer cells.

'Therefore, it is a double-edged sword, and there's no scientific evidence confirming or refuting antlers' cancer-fighting properties'. 

Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?
The Han dynasty are known to have seen the medical benefits from antlers. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya


Among other boasts on products now on the market in the West are these: 'Pantocrin was shown to reduce signs of aging, improve memory, increase body muscle mass, and bone density.

Recent studies in Russia and Japan show that Pantocrin use promotes production of Human Growth Hormone, which reverses aging processes in the body'; increase in Libido and Sexual Performance - Pantocrin increases circulation in reproductive organs and stimulates production of testosterone and its metabolites; Regeneration of heart muscle: cardiac muscle fatigue may develop as a result of chronic hypertension, disorders of circulation, ischemia, diabetes and prolonged psychological stress - Pantocrin improves cardiac circulation and metabolism; blood building effect - Pantocrin is effective in fighting anemias and is able to increase levels of blood cells and haemoglobin in the body; Pantocrin facilitates utilization of oxygen by liver, brain, kidney and endocrine organs.'

It also acts as a 'stress defence', osteoporosis treatment, bone healing remedy, anti-arthritis remedy, and more.

A British seller cautions: 'Consult with your GP prior to taking this product. It is not recommended for people with high blood pressure, high blood clotting, heart disease, cancer, sleep disorders, alcoholism or those with kidney failure. It is not recommended for people under the age of 18.'

The use of deer velvet for medicine has been traced to a silk scroll found in a tomb in Hunan China dating back to 168 BC.

The Han dynasty are known to have seen the medical benefits from antlers. 

Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?


Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?
'Stress defence', osteoporosis treatment, bone healing remedy, anti-arthritis remedy, and more. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya


Yet this historical backdrop does not impress Irina Novozhilova, president of Russian Animal Protection Centre 'Vita', who says the removal of antlers by Altai farms, such as this one, is 'barbarian'. 'These farms demonstrate total wildness. I understand that it is a completely legal venture, but I don't comprehend the utilitarian angle here, and this is the main problem. We start protecting animals when a few of them are left, but if an animal is not listed in the Red Book, nobody cares what is being done with it.'

She said: 'It is strange that we are discussing this matter in the 21st century, because the faith in the effectiveness of this medicine made from antlers comes from ancient times. Ancient people did believe that they could cure themselves with the help of animal body parts. 

'In Medieval times people also believed in curative substances. I recall stories about bloody Countess Bathory, who enjoyed taking baths in the blood of young girls. 

'And King James I of England regularly took baths with animal blood. Both these facts sound wild nowadays, but you can build a parallel to these legal red deer farms.'

She is disdainful of the medical benefits of antler blood. 'This is simply an example of a placebo,' she said. 'People prefer such dummies because it is much easier to use these than to live a healthy lifestyle. Curing yourself at the cost of an animal's pain, or even its life, is not something that should be going on the 21st century.'

Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?

'Baths are taken with the deep red water temperature at 37C to 41C, from eight to 30 minutes depending on the bather's health.' Picture: Vera Salnitskaya


When antlers have to be removed for sound medical reasons, anaesthetic is used by vets, she said.

'So it is a painful operation for an animal, and painkilling is necessary. Doing it regularly, without anaesthesia, like on these farms, breeding animals for the purpose of this regular painful antler removal - all this sounds totally abnormal to me.'

She stressed: 'It seems barbarian. And look at those blood baths, this is manipulating nature, without any sense. It is a pure example of a cruel attitude to animals.'

As with bear paws, musk glands, and other traditional cures leading to black market trading in animals, people 'have persuaded themselves that all these can cure them. 'Here, I see frightened deer in every picture: what for? We are civilized people with a basic knowledge of animal psychology. It is not hard to imagine what the animals feel during such operations to remove their antlers.'

She called for more control over deer farms, and also over fur farms, and hunting.

'There is no law in Russia which protects all these animals from cruelty. There is an article in the Russian Crime Code - article 245 on cruelty towards animals - but it is mainly used for animals-companions, and in order to use this law, the police must prove that the suspect had sadistic motives. But those farmers will tell you that their motives are purely human, because they are curing people.

'These farms treat animals like units in a production line. They kill deer that fail to give heavy antlers, which tells you much about their attitude to animals'.

antlers baths


antlers baths
Red deer antlers' medicines advertised in China City, Bangkok, Thailand. Pictures: The Siberian Times 


Anna Filipova, head of programmes of the Russian office of the International Fund of Animal Welfare (IFAW), echoed these criticisms.

'Such farms, which are legal, are based on the idea that they provide a humane way of making products out of the animals,' she said. 'But we are now living in the 21st century. The time has come to move to a different kind of medical treatment, in a way that we don't need to traumatise animals in order to cure diseases. 

'Our civilization is developing, our society is gradually becoming more humane; for example, the death penalty was once public, and was an entertainment for people, but nowadays it is something outrageous even to think about. Yet cruelty towards animals is still here.

'Especially in Russia, the idea of being humane to animals is not yet quite popular. This is why such farms still exist.

'We are supplying these products to Chinese and other Asian markets but the problem of killing and traumatising animals remains on our territory'.

Comments (22)

I've read some comments here. Yeah, so noble people collected here, with high moral values.
It's horrible and disgusting? Don't you think about how horrible it was, when you are eating a steak? Or barbeque from pork? Do you know that they hit the cow with the hammer on forehead? Ha? Do you know that they cut the pig's neck with the knife and wait when all blood is gone? And shoes you're wearing, where is that leather came from ha?, have you ever seen how they peel the skin off the animal?.
The Moral of the story is that YOU honorable people with high values, you for get about those values when you're HUNGRY, when nothing to put on, when you need proteins and want to look good! So stop complaining about this and that, when human is starving he/she is the most cruel beast!
J., Armenia
16/11/2016 21:20
3
0
I want to go and get this done. I'm not looking for benifits, i just want to bather in blood.
Jeremiah, Usa
26/05/2016 09:14
7
8
Terrible!!!. How they can do this?????
Zbig, Poland
23/03/2016 21:54
3
2
I suppose when you go to the supermarket, Everything you eat is ok since you do not care to see the truth in how a chicken is raised for your next meal from pork or beef. But that is ok right or how you really get that glass of milk.
wayne, canada
29/01/2016 03:18
3
0
They say eyes are the windows of the soul...perhaps Lana you should take another look at these photos...you are clearly seeing something different to me...I see fear and pain.
Carmen, Ireland
16/09/2015 05:09
12
3
guys i understand your concerns but it shouldn't be that bad, looks like the article is exaggerated
The animal would loose horns eventually anyway and it shouldn't suffer that much, comparing to the benefit that it can give for the human health benefits. The article represents little too bloody. This practice is much more human , than when animals gets killed for meat. The pictures are disturbing but after they done, the animals are fine
Lana, Santa Monica
29/08/2015 16:54
7
18
ragazzi, l'articolo sembra di essere un po' esagerato. L'animale non dovrebbe a soffrire . Un po' stressante probabile ma le corna perdono Da soli comunque più tardi. Poi questo che loro stanno facendo poi salvare le vite delle persone.
Lana, santa monica
29/08/2015 16:44
2
0
est ce que quelqu'un pourrait faire un pétition !
van campenhoud, belgique
29/08/2015 16:36
4
1
Il degrado della società dei profitti è arrivato all'apice questi mostri violentano questi poveri animali per perseguire dei profitti
adele, Italia
29/08/2015 07:03
3
1
Avete toccato il fondo.
Mario Manzo, Napoli, Italy
29/08/2015 00:09
3
1
Che schifo, non vi vergognate mai???
Olga Di Foggia, Cosenza, Italy
29/08/2015 00:07
3
1
QUALCUNO SI MUOVA A FARE QUALCOSA PER FERMALI ORA ADESSO MA SIAMO CRISTIANI O BELVE COSA SIAMO???MALEDETTI
anna, italia
28/08/2015 13:14
4
1
MA FERMATELI QUESTI MALEDETTI MA SONO PAZZI QUALCUNO FACCIA QUALCOSA
anna, italia
28/08/2015 13:13
4
1
Subito una petizione per fermare questa assurda quanto inutile strage...razza umana maledetta
gloria vardaci, italia
28/08/2015 12:14
6
1
Veri Imbecilli ed Ignoranti : Quando il tutto e , migliore ! a scopo terapeutico e sportivo, perchè di origine marina pescato !! Trovansi e/o Presenti in micro polvere di, OSSO SEPPIA, Coralli Marini, Gusci di Crostacei-Molluschi-Ostriche -Perle, tutti pescati e giammai di allevamento ! disidratai a 30° C, per conservare, anche tutti gli Aminoacidi e VITAMINE, che lo organismo-sangue-cellule-mitocondri-DNA-RNA, per loro metabolizzazione, accetta in toto , cioé al 100% !, e, ancor di Più, con massima EMPATIA, , per nostra origine unicellulare marina !
francesco paolo ruggieri, Matera/Italia
28/08/2015 06:27
3
1
12

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