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Animal Improvement

Is there a measure of irony in the fact that genetically modified plant foodstuffs attract increasing public debate, whereas hardly a word is said about animal improvement?

The Animal Improvement Act 19981 is designed to do just that: it provides for ‘the breeding, identification and utilisation of genetically superior animals in order to improve the production and performance of animals in the interest of the Republic’. Wide implications exist – not just for the meat and leather industries, but also for dog, cat and horse breeders, poultry egg layers, wool production, milk production, and so forth.

The Act is administered by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, who designates an officer in the department as Registrar of Animal Improvement.

A. Registration and restrictions on activities

  1. It is a crime to collect, evaluate, process, pack or store any animal embryo or ovum2 unless you are registered as an embryo collector, or you are the owner of the animal.3

  2. To import genetic material4 on behalf of someone else, you must be registered as an ‘import agent’ in terms of the Act, otherwise you commit an offence.5

  3. If, as a registered semen collector, inseminator, embryo collector or embryo transferor, you artificially inseminate or transfer any ovum or embryo into a female animal, you must provide the owner with the certificate prescribed by regulation,6 and commit a crime if you fail to do so.7

  4. It is a crime to sell genetic material unless it is accompanied by a written warranty concerning various details, which are prescribed by regulation.8 9

  5. It is a crime10 to make any false or misleading statement at:
    • the sale of any animal, or genetic material; or
    • the rendering of services regarding artificial insemination; or
    • the transferring of ova or embryos to recipient female animals; or
    • the collection, evaluation, processing, packing or labelling of genetic material.
  6. It is an offence to advertise that any progeny,11 from the use of genetic material you offer for sale, will be recorded or registered according to any particular breed standard; unless the breeder’s society for that progeny has granted prior written certification that (a) the genetic material was collected from a stud animal registered in its herd book, and (b) the progeny may be elegible for registration in the herd book.12

  7. No person may import the following into the Republic, and commits an offence if he does, without the written authorisation of the Registrar:
    • any animal, with a view to register it in terms of any breed standards; or
    • genetic material, with a view to register the progeny thereof in terms of any breed standards.13
  8. The authorisation to import an animal or genetic material may have conditions attached – either as prescribed by regulation, or as specified by the Registrar. It is an offence to contravene any such condition.

  9. No person may export any animal of a specified breed indigenous to (or developed in) the Republic,14 or its genetic material, without written authorisation from the Registrar. It is an offence to contravene this prohibition.15

  10. It is a criminal offence to publish or distribute an advertisement16 (or cause or permit it to be published or distributed) which is false or misleading and which concerns:
    • the pedigree of an animal;
    • the performance particulars of an animal;
    • the sale of an animal or of genetic material; or
    • the presentation of semen or embryo collection, or of artificial insemination or transfer of ova or embryos into female animals.
  11. It is an offence to disclose information about the business or affairs of another person and which was learnt in the performance of duties under the Act.

B. Breeders and breeders’ societies

  1. Unless registered as an animal breeders’ society, you commit an offence if you:
    • represent, or claim to represent breeders of stud book animals, by being their society;17
    • advertise that you promote the breeding, recording, registration, genetic improvement or use of a specific breed or kind of animal;18
    • determine and apply breed standards;19
    • recommend the recording or registration, with a registering authority, of a specific breed or kind of animal.20
  2. Animal breeders’ societies are ‘registering authorities’ for the purposes of the Act. They must be registered before they can issue certificates – concerning breed, pedigrees and the like, and one of their tasks is to register a prefix or suffix to indicate animals bred by a particular breeder. It is an offence to use a prefix or suffix registered in the name of another person.21

  3. Although only registered societies can issue certificates (etc.), information concerning the pedigree of an animal can nevertheless be given out by anyone. However, it is a criminal offence to make a false statement in doing so.22

  4. Any person who manages a centre which does not comply with requirements of the Act or uses premises that are not registered as a centre under the Act for activities in connection with the collection, evaluation, processing, packing, labelling, transport and sale of genetic material commits a criminal offence.23

C. The Register

The Registrar of Animal Improvement keeps a register of semen collectors, inseminators, embryo collectors, embryo transferors, import agents, centres, donor animals, animal breeders’ societies and registering authorities in which particulars of such collectors, etc. are recorded.

  1. It is a criminal offence24 to:
    • make (or cause to be made) a false entry in the register;
    • make (or cause to be made) a copy which falsely purports to be a copy of an entry in the Register;
    • produces or tenders (or causes this) such an entry, or copy, as evidence.
  2. If you make any false or misleading statement in terms of the Act, it is an offence.25

D. Appeal hearings

If you are summonsed or appear at a hearing in relation to any decision or direction by the Registrar, you commit an offence if you:

  1. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 62 of 1998. 

  2. The female germ cell capable of developing into an embryo when fertilised by the male sperm. 

  3. Section 13(1). 

  4. This means any ovum, embryo, semen or other material originating from an animal through which its hereditary factors can be transferred. 

  5. Section 13(1). 

  6. See Regulation 12, Government Notice 1682 of 21 November 2003 for the particulars the certificate must contain. 

  7. By some strange anomaly, it appears that this is not a crime if you are not registered. 

  8. See Regulation 11 of GNR 1682. 

  9. Section 14(1). 

  10. Section 25(1)(ii). 

  11. The child, in animal terms. 

  12. Section 14(2). 

  13. Section 16. 

  14. Referred to as a ‘landrace’. 

  15. Section 17. 

  16. This means any written, illustrated, visual or other descriptive material; or any verbal statement, communication, representation or reference, in either case brought to the notice of a member of the public. 

  17. Section 15(1)(a). 

  18. Section 15(1)(b). 

  19. Section 15(1)(c). 

  20. Section 15(1)(c). 

  21. Section 15(2)(a) and (b). 

  22. Section 15(2)(c). 

  23. Section 25(1)(j). 

  24. Section 25(1)(a) read with section 5. 

  25. Section 25(1)(i). 

  26. Section 25(1)(b). 

  27. Section 25(1)(b). 

  28. Section 25(1)(c). 

  29. Section 25(1)(d). 

  30. Section 25(1)(d).