By Jean Llewellyn

It has been brought to our notice very recently that certain long-established equine auctions and some major studfarms are planning to go to war with nouveau traders who have set up online auctions since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and are selling ‘glitter’ – embryos and semen of false provenance, with no health papers, and in some cases where origins have quite clearly been stolen.

These claims about using modern reproductive techniques to perpetrate unscrupulous trading have been brought to our attention from trusted sources, but for ongoing judicial reasons they are currently unable to answer the question as to who, what, when, where, and how? However, it’s a sufficiently worrying and substantiated claim that we felt it necessary to publish a warning to potential buyers.
Since 2010, when an article was first published by the British Equine Veterinary Association in their Equine Veterinary Journal (see below – and with apologies for the scientific complexities), the DNA testing of equine embryos to determine paternity has been possible. However, it’s a costly and time-consuming process, and to employ an old adage, for buyers who find themselves victims, it’s usually too late ‘to lock the stable door after the horse has bolted.’
One of the two auction houses specifically named, is a sell-all company that does not specialise in equines, while the other claims to be selling exclusive and highly sought-after bloodlines from exceptionally popular and high-performance bloodlines, and posting namelessly behind a fancy multi-lingual website. I say ‘namelessly’ because nowhere in the ‘contact’ information are the names of any individuals mentioned.
Nowadays, such auctions raise the worrying question of traceability of semen once it leaves an owner’s hands. There is no doubt that straws of semen from some best-known names are being stockpiled and/or resold for profit when demand outstrips supply. Similarly, straws are being ‘cut’ into numerous doses of semen for the purpose of achieving multiple pregnancies from the same sire with no adherance to either sales/purchase contracts or studbook regulations. From the studbook perspective, the majority require a breeding certificate from a stallion owner in order to register a foal, similarly, DNA testing may be required for foals where paperwork is incomplete (i.e. a ‘lost’ covering certificate), and evidence provided that the semen was acquired by legal means... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber

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