A federal jury in Texas has begun deliberations in a case that pits breeders who clone horses against a pre-eminent registry that refuses to list cloned animals.
The jury started deliberations late Friday and will resume on Monday, The Amarillo Globe News reported.
The outcome of the lawsuit, filed in 2012 against the American Quarter Horse Association by Panhandle rancher Jason Abraham and Amarillo veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen, is being closely watched by horse breeder groups nationwide because a ruling could set a precedent. Currently, no U.S. horse-breeder groups list cloned animals.
Abraham and Veneklasen argue the association's refusal to list cloned horses gives it a monopoly over the elite, multimillion dollar quarter horse industry.
Their attorney, Nancy Stone, said in closing arguments that her clients' horses cannot compete because they are barred from the registry. She said the rule violates federal and state anti-trust laws.
Sam Stein, another attorney for the plaintiffs', told jurors the association is stacked with officials whose own horses compete in major racing events.
"They want to exclude the horses from competition because it doesn't jibe with their economic interests," Stein said.
The association's lawyers have said that while it costs about $150,000 to clone a horse, a clone doesn't come from a registered mother and father, which is one of the group's rules for listing. The association does list horses that have been bred using artificial insemination, frozen semen and cooled semen.
Wade Arnold, an attorney for the association, told jurors the group has a right to set its own rules. He said some of the 280,000 members oppose cloning for moral reasons.
"Our members ought to have the right to make their own decisions," Arnold said. "Our members have reasonable and legitimate reasons to oppose those proposals."
The association is responsible for issuing and maintaining pedigree records for American quarter horses. There are thousands of sanctioned races annually that amounted last year to $131.5 million in purse money.