August 13, 2013
Cloned Horses Can Race, Says Texas Court
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A federal judge in Texas ruled on Monday the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) must add cloned horses to their registry, thereby allowing the genetically enhanced horses to race alongside other horses. The AQHA is now the first American horse breeding group to register cloned animals.
A pair of Texas ranchers brought the suit against the AQHA and claimed the association was running a monopoly by not allowing cloned animals to be listed and race, two lucrative businesses which the association oversees. A jury decided in favor of the ranchers in an Amarillo, TX court last month, but US District Judge Mary Lou Robinson only yesterday ordered an injunction which now forces the AQHA to change their guidelines. The association vowed to appeal the decision last month. Judge Robinson is expected to sign the official order later this week, and the injunction will go into effect 30 days later.
“We're thrilled. We're just thrilled," said Nancy Stone, the attorney representing the two Texas Ranchers in a statement to the Associated Press. "It is definitely time."
Though Judge Robinson sided in favor with the ranchers, she denied their request to have the AQHA pay their $900,000 attorney fees.
“We are deeply disappointed by the outcome of this trial,”said Don Treadway, Jr., AQHA’s executive vice president, in a statement last month when the jury decided against them. "It continues to be our position that our rule prohibiting the registration of clones and their offspring is both reasonable and lawful."
In an updated statement, Treadway said the association would continue to “fight for its members’ rights” despite the latest ruling.
For their part, the AQHA argued they are a private organization and therefore should be able to determine their own membership rules. Furthermore, the association claims the plaintiffs in the case have been unable to effectively prove the stipulations against cloning have created a monopoly on the quarter horse market and are inconsistent with the rest of their guidelines.
Going beyond the monopoly argument, the plaintiffs claim the former ban on cloned animals is out of sync with the rest of the associations rules. Quarter horses which have been artificially inseminated, for example, are allowed to be included in the AQHA registry and therefore compete in races for large purses. This has been a common practice in the AQHA since 1960.
The association’s registry currently holds 751,747 animals and is responsible for approving thousands of races every year. These races can win the horse owners large prizes. According to Reuters, the AQHA doled out some $131.5 million in prize money in 2012 alone.
The specific cloning procedure in question in the trial is known as “Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer,” which is currently the most common means of cloning animals. This process involves taking a somatic cell from an animal - rather than a sperm or an egg - then taking the complete DNA from this cell. The genetic material is then transplanted into an egg cell, grafting the genes of another animal into a donor egg. This egg is then implanted into a surrogate mother.
The AQHA and other opponents of this practice say it could provide an unfair advantage against other horses as well as introduce new diseases and ailments to the cloned animals.