Welfare Implications for Genetically Engineered Horses

Genetically engineered horses could be arriving as soon as next year, but how that engineering might affect their health and welfare remains unclear.

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The birth of the world’s first genetically engineered horse, expected as early as next year, has the potential to revolutionize many facets of equestrian competition. But even before the animal’s arrival, some equine advocates are wondering how genetic engineering might affect equine welfare.

In November 2017, the Buenos Aires, Argentina-based equine cloning laboratory Kheiron Biotech announced that it had produced genetically engineered embryos for the first time using a technique called CRISPR-Cas9. The laboratory said CRISPR uses “biological scissors” to amend the myostatin gene sequence in horses that related to muscle development, endurance, and speed. Theoretically, the firm said, horses produced with this kind of “genetic editing” could run faster, jump higher and have more endurance than those that have acquired similar traits naturally.

“This technology brings an additional progress in horse breeding,” said Kheiron founder Daniel Sammartino. “It could be possible to achieve better horses in less time.” In addition to affecting performance, genetic engineering could be sued to cure defective sequences by eliminating genetic pathologies, the firm said.

Even so, some breeders reject the idea altogether

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Written by:

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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