- Created on Monday, 23 April 2012
- Written by Bobby Cervantes-Amarillo Globe-News
- Hits: 2487
Two Texas Panhandle horse owners filed a federal lawsuit Monday asking a judge to overturn a ban on cloned horses in the world’s largest equine breed registry.
Canadian rancher Jason Abraham and Amarillo veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen allege in the suit the American Quarter Horse Association’s Rule 227, which bars cloned horses from the AQHA registry, illegally curbs competition and puts cloned-horse owners at an economic disadvantage.
Abraham and Veneklasen – who own an undisclosed number of cloned Quarter Horses or offspring – claim the rule violates federal antitrust laws that prohibit any entity from monopolizing commerce without a legitimate reason. The Amarillo-based AQHA passed the rule in 2004.
“Without exception, DNA tests confirm that the plaintiffs’ horses are Quarter Horses,” according to the complaint. “But for Rule 227 and the defendant’s unlawful enforcement of it, the horses that plaintiffs seek to register would be eligible for registration with the [AQHA].”
Rule 227 states “horses produced by any cloning process are not eligible for registration.”
An association official did not return messages Monday.
The AQHA issues and maintains pedigree records of all American Quarter Horses. The American Quarter Horse market includes 8,000 sanctioned races each year, the suit said, and those events doled out more than $129 million in purse money last year. The organization reported assets of more than $93 million as of September, the lawsuit said.
“Denial of registration has grave economic consequences to horse owners,” the suit said. “With the power to control output is the power to control price.”
The suit said the association has recognized advancements in breeding technologies in recent decades, including allowing the registration of horses that were produced through artificial insemination.
Abraham and Veneklasen said their cloning process, somatic cell nuclear testing, is the most recent method of selective breeding, which is similar to in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination processes widely used in animal reproduction.
The cloned-horse owners’ suit said the process does not alter the genetic makeup of horses, which still are born in “traditional ways.”
“There is no genetic manipulation of the animal,” the lawsuit said. “No genes are added, taken away or manipulated. A clone is a genetic twin of the original animal. The offspring of clones are not clones.”
The suit also claims that cloning also offers health benefits to Quarter Horses, which can be affected by at least nine equine diseases linked to genetic mutations, the suit said. Specifically, the chance of Quarter Horses acquiring two of the most prevalent diseases – a muscle ailment that can cause paralysis [HYPP} and a flesh disorder that can cause a horse to shed its skin [HERDA] – can be significantly reduced through cloning, Abraham and Veneklasen said in their suit.
The suit points out that since 2006, some association members have supported a rule change on cloned horses that DNA can confirm are Quarter Horses, but the group has postponed any decision on the measure. [AQHA conducted a survey of 3,000 members a few years ago and 1,073 returned surveys: 923 were against the registration of cloning; 89 were in favor and 61 were neutral.] The suit states that in February 2012, AQHA's Stud Book and Registration Committee and Executive Committee considered a reversal of Rule 227, and the boards were supportive of the change.
But at an association meeting a month later, the suit said, an unnamed former AQHA president and “influential breeder” objected.
“Through the use of intimidating remarks and references to the immorality of cloning as a reproductive tool, he threatened that ‘AQHA will allow cloning over my dead body,’” according to the lawsuit. He also made remarks about “the anti-competitive” result of the association refusing to register clones and their offspring, the plaintiffs alleged.
“Following this tirade, he moved to take no action on the proposed rule change and the debate was over,” the suit said.