Legislation that prevents imported equine semen being shipped around Europe is to be discussed this week by the European Commission (EC).

Currently equine semen can be imported into the UK from anywhere in the world and then exported again — to anywhere except the EU.

Frustrated equine studs and AI agents say rules for other species have been rewritten to allow “triangular trade” and so have no such restrictions.

EU legislation states that semen must be “collected, processed and stored for trade within a member state”, on the “day it was collected until the date it is despatched”.

But a working party involving Tullis Matson, owner of Stallion AI Services and Tessa Clarke, stud manager at West Kington Stud oppose this rule.

“You would think if the semen can make it into the EU in the first place, then it would be fine to ship it to the rest of the Continent,” said Mr Matson.

Ms Clarke added: “We’re supposed to have freedom of trade within the EU, so it seems pretty peculiar. It affects us financially and loses us custom.

“Free trade would also open up a bigger market as we could import more breeds — but it’s just not cost-effective to import if we can’t send them on.”

Ms Clarke declined to comment on how much of her trade this legislation affects, but warned the rule could tempt people to alter health certificates, which is illegal.

The leglislation was originally drawn up in 1995.

Last year it was amended for cows, and a spokesman for the EC said a similar change for equines was being worked on.

She added the issue was on the agenda of the Standing Committee (8-9 September), but could not say when the law could change.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (10 September, ’09)