Legislation has caught up with practice in the breeding world in the form of the Veterinary Surgery (Artificial Insemination [AI] of Mares) Order 2004.
Under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, AI can only be carried out by vets; but for years now, AI technicians — some trained, some not — have been performing the procedure with DEFRA’s knowledge, but no formal law allowing them to do so. The new law enables AI technicians who have obtained a certificate of exemption to carry out the procedure legally.
Leading AI vets have campaigned for the legislation for some time in a bid to formalise current arrangements and phase out untrained AI technicians.
Three centres are approved by DEFRA to train technicians and provide a certificate of exemption, but only one — Twemlows Hall in Shropshire — offers courses to lay people. Twemlows has trained about 60 people each year since 2001, ranging from breeders and students to vets – the requirement is that trainees must have experience of horses.
“The procedure itself is straightforward: it’s everything else – quality control, hygiene, health of the mare and so on – that are even more important.”
Richard Matson, who runs the AI Trade Association, says: “What should happen now is that DEFRA will catch up with people who are practising without training or accountability. But there are several well-known and competent people performing AI who are not trained.
“The procedure itself is straightforward: it’s everything else — quality control, hygiene, health of the mare and so on — that are even more important.”
DEFRA officials plan to write to untrained technicians they know are practising to inform them of the new law.