Federal Court rules against A.I.

The Federal Court has ruled against the legalisation of artificial insemination for thoroughbreds.

Former STC committeeman and bookmaker Bruce McHugh took legal action claiming the refusal to register horses bred via artificial insemination was both a restraint of trade and a breach of the Trade Practices Act.

Justice Alan Robertson dismissed both arguments.  He said McHugh had failed to show the court the A.I. rule was a restraint of trade, because he accepted it was a reasonable provision when it was established “many decades ago to prevent the attribution of incorrect paternity to a thoroughbred horse”.

Justice Robertson also dismissed the argument the ban on A.I. breeding was a breach of the Trade Practices Act.

Under international rules, only horses that are conceived by “direct cover”, where the stallion directly inseminates the mare, can be registered, which allows them to race and breed.  That rule was defended by six co-respondents – Australian Turf Club, Victoria Racing Club, Australian Racing Board, Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, Racing Information Services Australia and Australian Stud Book.

The legalisation of A.I. would have effectively isolated Australian thoroughbreds from the rest of the world.

Racing NSW chairman John Messara welcomed the decision.  “It keeps us within the international community of racing because they were international rules,” Messara said.  “Australia would have been out of line with the rest of the world.”

Australian Stud Book keeper Michael Ford said the Federal Court had protected the integrity of racing.  “The introduction of artificial insemination would have had serious consequences for our industry.  This is a comprehensive victory for the hundreds of thousands of Australians who derive a livelihood from the thoroughbred racing industry.”

TBA President Trevor Lobb said he was very grateful for the decision.  “Australia will continue to be able to send its best horses around the world and investors can buy yearlings with confidence in 2013.”