Australian Government Ban Called 'Overreaction'

John Messara Wednesday called for the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) to reconsider its total ban on the importation of horses from Britain and Ireland into Australia. The Arrowfield Stud CEO called the ban for 'an indefinite period' an 'over-reaction'.

Messara said the move had no scientific basis, which echoed the criticism Tuesday by Quentin Wallace, the chairman of International Racehorse Transport. Wallace said  the ban was "politically rather than scientifically motivated." However, Carson Creagh, a media consultant with the Australian Government department, said the ban will stay in place until AQIS officials decide it is safe for it to be lifted. Creagh defended the equine import ban saying that it had not been implemented by authorities in the United Kingdom.

"Australia currently has around 20 AQIS vets working in Britain and directly involved with foot and mouth disease. The decision was taken in Australia, but in consultation with them," he said. "We had been advised just last week by UK authorities that there were 112 properties involved. Now we have 183 reported cases of foot and mouth disease in Britain alone." The suspension, from March 13, allowed an AQIS veterinary officers in the UK to examine local horse movement and horse export arrangements. At the same time, AQIS officers in Australia, in association with colleagues at Biosecurity Australia, examined all aspects of the protocol and import quarantine arrangements. Until their assessment is completed and the outcome is considered by the Director of Quarantine the suspension will remain in place.

IRT handles most of the shuttle flights which arrive in Australia. Last year  there were 37 from Europe, including four Australian-breds, 21 from North America, and eight from Japan. Despite the confirmed outbreak in France, talk of a European ban is premature according to Creagh. Coolmore is the largest shuttle player, accounting for 21 stallions on last year's flights, 14 from Ireland and six from Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky., after Southern Halo's first southern season was cancelled and Spinning World was on the roster to Japan. It also sent Stravinsky into New Zealand. The biggest name to Australia from Ireland was Danehill.

With Hennessy to come from Japan this year, Coolmore might be expected to shuttle more of the stallions on its Ashford roster this year, if denied access to its Irish-based sires. Coolmore's Australia general manager Duncan Grimley said he was not fully aware of whether the ban affects only the UK or Ireland and France as well, so until things are clarified, 'we won't know our position.' The ban could also jeopardize Darley's plan to set up an Australian base with four sires at Collingrove Stud.