Vets’ fears over illegally imported semen

  • Serious concerns have been raised by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) that its members are being pressured to break the law by using illegally imported semen.

    BEVA has been told by vets they have been asked by some clients or agents to inseminate mares with semen that does not have an accompanying health certificate.

    It is a legal requirement for all equine semen imported into the UK to be accompanied to its destination — usually to the mare — by an original health certificate issued by the country of origin.

    BEVA said some recent consignments of equine semen have been imported without the appropriate certificates.

    The organisation is worried that some agents have advised mare owners that these certificates are unnecessary, and have criticised vets who refuse to inseminate mares with uncertified imported semen.

    Malcolm Morley, partner at Stable Close Equine Practice, was recently placed in a difficult position when semen arrived without the requisite documentation.

    The importer told the client Mr Morley was being “pedantic”, so the vet contacted the importer to say he had “no intention” of inseminating the mare without the correct papers.

    If semen has no certificate, there is no guarantee it is free from disease, posing a health risk to Britain’s horses, or that it is even from the chosen stallion.

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    “Import agencies have placed additional pressure on the vets to inseminate mares without the necessary paperwork,” said BEVA’s senior vice-president Mark Bowen.

    “Not only is this action illegal but it places recipient mares under a direct threat from a notifiable and incurable disease.

    “This seems particularly cavalier given the recent outbreaks of EIA [equine infectious anaemia] across Europe.”

    EIA, also known as swamp fever, is a viral disease that attacks the horse’s immune system.

    There is no cure and no vaccine for this viral infection. The last known outbreak in the UK was in 2012, but there have been several reported cases in Europe in recent weeks.


    BEVA is warning that the personal and professional reputation of any vet involved with using uncertified semen is also in danger and is taking the following action:

    • Notifying owners they must tell the agent they will not accept semen without a valid health certificate, in order to protect the health of their own horses
    • Reassuring all vets performing stud duties that they are right to refuse to inseminate mares with semen that is not accompanied by a valid health certificate, in order to protect their professional status and safeguard the health status of the UK herd
    • Making sure owners and vets are fully aware that if they receive imported semen that is not accompanied by a valid health certificate they must report it immediately to their local animal health office and arrange for the semen to be destroyed
    • Reminding agents of the law and to make them aware that all BEVA members have been advised to report any indiscretions to their local animal health office

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