12/19/2012 3:38PM

Australian court rules against artificial insemination

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A federal judge in Australia ruled on a case Wednesday that could have global implications for the Thoroughbred breeding industry, upholding the prohibition of artificial insemination for registered Thoroughbreds.

The ruling, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald and on Bloomberg’s website, wrapped up a four-month trial and a year of deliberation born of a lawsuit by Bruce McHugh, a former chairman of the Sydney Turf Club, against the Australian Turf Club. McHugh argued that the outlawing of artificial insemination was an illegal trade restraint for his breeding business and said it violated the country’s competition and consumer act.

Ian Tonking, McHugh’s attorney, also said that the advent of DNA identification has caused the old rule to outlive its purpose, which was to prevent fraud and reduce errors in the registration of Thoroughbreds.

Federal Court Justice Alan Robertson did not buy McHugh’s argument, saying the plaintiff could set up a separate register for Thoroughbreds bred through artificial insemination. Robertson said that the plaintiff must show that trade restraint was unreasonable when artificial insemination was prohibited, and affirmed that when the rule was created several decades ago, such trade restraint was reasonable.

“Whether Thoroughbreds bred by artificial insemination should or should not be permitted to race [was not a consideration]”, the judge said. “The application fails on the legal grounds on which it was brought.”

Had the judge sided with McHugh, Australia would have become the first jurisdiction to allow artificial insemination in its Thoroughbred racing and breeding industries. Other flat racing breeds–Quarter Horses and Arabians–already allow artificial insemination in their breeding programs.

“The dismissal of the challenge is a good outcome and I welcome it,” said Louis Romanet, chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, who testified against artificial insemination. “The definition of what is a Thoroughbred is set out clearly in the International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering and is adopted by all of the IFHA Members countries throughout the world. It requires a natural covering."

Adam Sangster, principal of prominent Australian breeding operation Swettenham Stud and a board member of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, also praised the judge’s ruling. “It’s a huge relief for the Australian racing economy,'' Sangster said in the Sydney Morning Herald. ''I think that globally, logic came through, and one only needs to look at the standardbred [harness] industry and the decimation of their breeding industry [in Australia] to imagine what it would have done to thoroughbreds—it would have been a disaster.''