The long-running court case brought by Bruch McHugh in a bid to overturn the ban on Artificial Insemination (AI) in thoroughbred breeding in Australia has been dismissed.
A former Chairman of Sydney Turf Club, McHugh initiated legal proceedings against the Sydney-based Australian Jockey Club (AJC) citing “restraint of trade” as the reason for his opposition to the ban, which has been in place in the country since 1949. As in other racing nations, only thoroughbreds resulting from natural conception can be registered with the Australian Stud Book.
The AJC was joined by five other respondents when the case was heard in court from August 2011, with the Australian Racing Board, Victoria Racing Club (VRC), Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBAus), Australian Stud Book and the country’s equivalent of Weatherbys, Racing Information Services Australia, teaming up in defence.
Lack of evidence was the reason for dismissal given by Justice Alan Robertson, who has spent 12 months formulating his judgement on the case.
He said: “The case has not involved the merits of artificial insemination, that is, it has not involved whether the court considers artificial insemination to be something which should or should not be permitted by the Australian Stud Book, nor whether thoroughbreds bred by artificial insemination should or should not be permitted to race in thoroughbred races.”
“The effect on competition of the international consequences, that is, on the evidence, that in a world where prohibition was overturned in Australia, the status of thoroughbred races held in Australia would be downgraded.”
The judge’s decision was naturally welcomed by the assorted reposndents, whose legal costs have run to millions of dollars.
Speaking to Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder earlier in the year, TBAus Chief Executive Officer Chauncey Morris outlined the concerns of breeders within Australia, saying: “The small breeders are very much aware of how precarious their livelihoods would be in a post-AI world. When AI was introduced to the standardbred industry it pushed out a lot of smaller operations.
“Our defence was to paint a picture of the thoroughbred industry as it occurs all around the world and of Australia’s place within it. It [AI] is an existential threat and we’re treating it like one. We’ve mounted an extremely robust and costly defence but it’s something that all of us – the Australian Stud Book and the racecourses – felt strongly that we had to do.”
Welcoming Justice Robertson’s decision on Wednesday, Morris’s TBAus colleague, President Trevor Lobb said: “We are very grateful for today’s decision. Australia will continue to be able to send its best horses around the world and investors can buy yearlings with confidence in 2013.”