Cloning is a complicated and emotional subject for AQHA members on both sides of the issue. While there are those who view cloning as just another breeding tool, a great majority of our members simply do not perceive cloning to be a natural extension of existing breeding practices.
Although the process of collecting an egg and a sperm and combining them has been accepted by members for quite some time, the thought of creating a new horse by harvesting a cell from a horse’s skin or other body part remains a concept that most members have not accepted. As a result, AQHA through the AQHA Stud Book and Registration Committee, its board of directors and its members has during the past several years put considerable effort into better understanding the issues involving cloning, including both its perceived benefits and the potential downsides.
Since 2008, AQHA representatives and members have been studying the science and practicality of cloning and the impact it could have on the breed. The stud book committee and a cloning task force have examined the numerous issues involved with cloning and, in doing so, they have consulted with a wide variety of experts in the cloning field.
In studying cloning, the committee and the task force were given the opportunity to hear from a number of experts in the field. These include Dr. Katrin Hinrichs, a veterinarian involved in equine cloning at Texas A&M University; Dr. Sharon Spier, an epidemiologist at the University of California-Davis; Dr. George Seidel, a professor specializing in biomedical sciences at Colorado State University; Blake Russell of ViaGen, a commercial equine cloning company; and Dr. Gregg Veneklasen, a veterinarian who is a partner in one of the entities named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
At the 2009 AQHA Convention, AQHA sponsored a cloning forum that more than 400 AQHA members attended and that was webcast live on AQHA.com. This forum included formal presentations from Dr. Hinrichs, Dr. Spier, Dr. Seidel and Russell. Following these presentations, AQHA members were given the opportunity to offer their own comments on the subject and ask questions of the expert panelists.
Also at the 2009 Convention, the stud book committee’s recommendation was that the subject of cloning be studied further by establishing a cloning task force, with the directive to continue to seek information and input from informed sources regarding cloning. Additionally, the task force was to examine, among other things, parentage verification issues, the implications of cloning on the registration process, sentiment of the general membership and implications of cloningwith respect to genetic diseases. The information gathered by the task force was presented to the stud book committee at the 2010 convention.
Following the presentation of the task force findings at the 2010 Convention, the stud book committee members discussed proposed amendments to several registration rules that would allow for the registration of horses produced via somatic cell nuclear transfer, a particular method of cloning. Ultimately, the stud book committee recommended to the board of directors that such rule changes be denied. The AQHA Board of Directors agreed with the recommendation, and no rule changes were enacted concerning cloning.
At the 2011 Convention, the stud book committee again addressed the topic of cloning when it considered a proposed rule change from a member that would allow for the registration of a cloned horse for breeding purposes only. The committee recommended that the proposed rule change be rejected and the board of directors agreed.
Once again, a rule-change proposal concerning cloning was made prior to the 2012 Convention. At this most recent Convention, the proposed change to Rule 227(a) would have amended it to allow for the registration of the offspring of a cloned horse. After hearing from members, the stud book committee chose not to recommend passage of the proposal, with the board of directors following suit and not adopting the proposed change.
Since 2008, members have expressed different opinions regarding equine cloning. Some of the concerns expressed by members over the cloning issue include: (1) issues that cloning presents with respect to parentage verification (currently there is no feasible method to differentiate whether a particular offspring is by an original stallion or by the clone of the stallion; likewise, if an original stallion is cloned more than once, there is no feasible method to differentiate whether a particular offspring is by the original stallion, Clone No. 1 of the stallion or Clone No. 2 of the stallion); (2) the significant change that cloning presents in the sire/dam system upon which the registration of Quarter Horses has always been based; (3) the impact cloning may have in the area of genetic diseases; and (4) the moral objections to cloning.
As part of the cloning task force process discussed earlier, a survey was sent to a random sample of 3,000 AQHA members with a response rate of more than 30 percent. Of the respondents, 86.02 percent were against cloning; 8.29 percent were for cloning and 5.68 percent were neutral.
Since 2008, only three AQHA members have submitted proposals to the stud book committee that would alter the rules to allow for the registration of clones. To date, the 30-plus AQHA members who comprise the stud book committee and the more than 250 individuals who sit on the AQHA Board of Directors consist of a very diverse group of AQHA members ranging from American Quarter Horse breeders and racehorse owners to exhibitors and recreational riders.
The members who sit on the stud book committee and the board of directors have voiced their concerns over cloning by way of their votes on the rule change proposals that have come before them concerning Rule 227. As demonstrated by their votes on the proposed rule changes to Rule 227, the members of the stud book committee and the board of directors have consistently voted that clones should not be registered with AQHA.
AQHA has been informed that an Anti-Trust lawsuit has been filed against AQHA by one of its members, Jason Abraham, and two of his related companies, Abraham & Veneklasen Joint Venture and Abraham Equine Inc. The nature of the suit concerns AQHA’s current rule that prohibits the registration of cloned horses and their offspring. Mr. Abraham and his companies seek to have the cloning rule amended to allow cloned horses and their offspring to be registered with AQHA as American Quarter Horses in AQHA’s breed registry.
As this suit was filed April 23, 2012, AQHA has not yet had the opportunity to fully review the suit. However, AQHA will respond accordingly once the claims have been examined in detail.
AQHA is a member-run breed registry organization. The cloning rule with which Mr. Abraham and his companies take issue is Rule 227(a) that provides:
(a) Horses produced by any cloning process are not eligible for registration. Cloning is defined as any method by which the genetic material of an unfertilized egg or any embryo is removed and replaced by genetic material taken from another organism, added to/with genetic material from another organism or otherwise modified by any means in order to produce a live foal.
This rule has been in effect since 2004 and was approved by the board of directors, which is fully composed of members of AQHA. Each year prior to AQHA’s Convention, AQHA members may request rule changes or the implementation of new rules (“rule changes”). During the past several years, a few AQHA members have requested a change to Rule 227 to allow the registration of cloned horses or their offspring. Thus far, the AQHA members who comprise the stud book and registration committee and the board of directors have voted not to change the cloning rule. During the rule change debates that have taken place at past conventions, both those seeking to have the rule changed and those in opposition to changing the cloning rule have appeared before the stud book and registration committee and provided information that they desired the committee to review in preparation for voting on the proposed rule change. Additionally, various persons with scientific backgrounds in the field of cloning, including Dr. Gregg Veneklasen, have appeared before the committee.
At the most recent Convention, which took place in March 2012, the most recent rule change request offered by Dr. Veneklasen was presented to the 33-member stud book and registration committee. Mr. Abraham and Dr. Veneklasen spoke to the committee and voiced their support for the rule change and presented their arguments in favor of registering cloned horses and their offspring. Following the presentation of the rule change, the stud book and registration committee voted against the proposed rule change.
“At this time, we are reviewing the lawsuit and have informed the AQHA Executive Committee, the stud book and registration committee and the board of directors,” said AQHA Executive Vice President Don Treadway. “These committees and the AQHA members who sit on them have charged the staff with defending the rules of the Association. During this process, we will work to keep our members informed as new information becomes available.”
breeding and training horses to find the next great one could get in your blood and you were addicted and worked hard to find a winner....well now it's about who can afford the most expensive test tube. The fun is being taken out of this industry, thank you AQHA for standing your ground this long, just hold strong and keep cloned horses at bay. There are still those of us that appreciate a great horse for being a great horse and respect the great breeders and trainers who can produce them.
You posted a statement on here that states something about anti-trust suit regarding the "White Rule" I would like to get some information on that, would you be so kind as to direct me to a website for review if one one is available? Thank you
Haven't we messed with Mother Nature enough?? I'm still on the fence about Frozen semen from a deceased stallion... It's just not natural. I understand the positive side of it, although to me it can reduce the upcoming stallions the chance of being "A great one" too. Look at the shows entries in the Stallion Division, the numbers are down by so very much. I remember showing and having 20 or more in classes, now your lucky if you could receive 1/2 point if you win. Those "great ones" were shown when it meant something to win a class, What would it be like to show basically against yourself, there would be now betterment of the breed then. Could you imagine having 10 cloned horses in a class.....and it will come to that if the resulting cloned foals are allowed to be registered, maybe not in my lifetime (I'm "long in the tooth" but surely in our Grandchildrens lifetime!
Once an animal has lived its life it's time to use what they have reproduced and continue forward with the breeding of such horses. Returning to the past to reuse genetic material is unnatural and in the long run they will destroy the breed. If we accept clones, we are not moving forward and are not improving the breed. We already have enough in-bred horses, this will just make matters worse.
Thankfully cloning was not around in Impressive's day or HYPP would be in twice the number of horses because he would probably have been at the top of the list.
I have been a member for years and have watched all these changes..... It seems those with deep pockets will go to any lengths to get what they want without concidering the out come. "for the betterment of the breed" allowing clones to be registered will NOT better the breed!!! Just disstroy it. Clones are inperfect copies!!! Clones are NOT the original horse. To register these clones is wrong! Pam
While I am always cautious in seeing changes made to our breeding and registration rules, I offer the following:
1) We heard HUGE outcrys of "Love it or Leave it" by AQHA members when a few folks iniiated the "white rule" lawsuit. One neighbor of mine had a horse rejected for registration because of a bit of white (a thumbnail amount) that strayed outside the then prescribed areas on the face. Nowadays we embrace the fact that we have so many good double-bred AQHA-APHA horses.
2) For years there was a great deal of argument at our national meeting about the shipping of cooled semen. Again, entrenched stalwarts, claimed that such allowances would RUIN the breed and that only breeding in the traditional sense should be allowed. Today, the shipment and use of cooled semen is widely used and has helped to entend the gene pools of some of our better producers around the globe. It has also saved many mares and foals by their sides safer as those pairs can stay at home instead of making long trailer rides to unfamiliar places to get get bred.
3) More recently was the pressure to allow the registration of foals from not only embryo transfers but multiple embryo transfers in the same year. Again lawsuits were involved. Again, we heard the cries of , Oh NO! Today, embryo transfers, if not common place for the average horse breeder, are at least not uncommon in the industry.
4) Regarding cloning...while there is no evidence that cloning "doesn't bring back the past in a good way", nor is there any evidence to support assertions that cloning, especially if done with the proven producers, will not help the breed to move forward. However, although it has now been in existence for nearly forty years or so, it is still a relatively new technology. As such, I appreciate the cautious and prudent approach taken by the AQHA on this matter.
One concern we all need to consider is the dilution of the gene pools. One the one hand, we could argue that the time involved in developing linebreeding programs is reduced, a possible plus. On the other, we always need to remember the strength a good outcrosses and a broad gene pool.
While I would prefer that AQHA not have to deal with items in such a confrontational way, let us remember that it was only a few years ago that similar pressure was used to allow for more than one foal (if not twins) out of one mare per year registered. Many members are thrilled that we now can do embryo transfers and can register those multiple foals out of a single mare per year.
Why are you a member of a club, whose rules you do not support. If you can not support the club based upon the rules that exist, go start your own club, so you can have rules that fit your needs and quit trying to make other accept something that only you may want. Love it or leave it.
Whether we like it or not, those with money, are going to sue based on the precidence of the white rule change that was made via an anti-trust lawsuit......it'll happen, so imho as an aqha member, I'd rather aqha just not fight it in court and spend the money.....i honestly believe some of aqha's financial issues are a result of the white rule lawsuit.