Clone Zone

A geneticist and a breeder go head-to-head in this modern debate
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
A geneticist and a breeder go head-to-head in this modern debate
illustration by Paul Kisselev

In light of the recent legal dustup, we asked two sides of the horse cloning debate to share their arguments.

Pro: Blake Russel

How often has one great horse changed the lives of everyone he touched? Do you remember that superior performer who changed the entire direction of a breeding program? How often has immense opportunity been lost or cut short due to injury or accident? How many times have “one in a million” genetics been underused due to castration or a late-in-life discovery? How often has a full sibling been disappointing and unable to recreate the “magic” of an identical twin separated in time?

The first horse was cloned in Italy more than 10 years ago. Since then, over 250 healthy cloned foals have been produced around the world. Cloned horses are being produced for all Olympic events, rodeo, barrel racing, cutting, polo, halter conformation, and numerous other disciplines pursued by their owners, furthering the goals of equestrians across the world. Many of these horses represent genetics that are so highly coveted that they go directly into breeding careers rather than competing.

I personally own a cloned stallion produced from the genetics of an elite Racing Quarter Horse who was gelded prior to his record-setting performance career. This cloned stallion has improved my life and my family’s life, and will continue to improve our breeding program as his once lost elite genetics are allowed to favorably influence our breeding goals and place choice genetics in the hands of everyday horsemen and women.

Blake Russell is currently President of ViaGen, LLC, a wholly owned division of Trans Ova Genetics. ViaGen is the global leader in the application of cloning technology in the equine and livestock sectors.

Con: Micah McKinney

As breeders and owners of American Quarter Horses, we have many reasons to oppose cloning here at Reliance Ranches, LLC. In an effort to produce world class, quality athletes through selective breeding, we place an emphasis on the importance of the individual.

The value of foals is determined by supply and demand. When an outstanding equine athlete is successful and able to pass along the genetics to their offspring, their value increases.

The factors that influence if a horse will be an elite performer are vast, and whether or not those qualities are passed on in the breeding barn is a whole other story. The question of how clones perform remains unproven—whether in an arena or on the track.

From a market value standpoint, a breeder must have the ability to limit supply to quality, not quantity. It’s extremely important and a fundamental principle in breeding economics. If a horse is cloned, the value of the original decreases immensely. Also, the argument can and should be made that any form of compensation that copies receive for their genetic material should therefore belong to the owner of the original athlete.

In our opinion, cloning opens up a host of issues and questions, from the ethical to the legal. For instance, is it right that an owner of an original can have their efforts pirated by someone selling a “generic” of the original?

With moral certainty, we believe that cloning will decrease the integrity of the industry.

Reliance Ranches is a family-run horse farm specializing in breeding, foaling, and racing quality American Quarter Horses. With operations in Llano, Texas, Reliance Ranches is owned by Gary McKinney and operated by Micah and Leslie McKinney.

READERS’ POLL RESULTS

Pro 10%

Con 90%