DON’T CLONE YOUR DOG
By Dr. Michael W.
Laura Jacques and Richard Remde of Yorkshire,
England, welcomed their new puppies, Chance and Shadow, who were cloned using
their dog Dylan's DNA. Dylan died in June, and the couple paid roughly $100,000
to have him cloned at the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea. A
researcher at the facility claimed in 2004 to have cloned human embryos, but
the report was later discredited. CBS News (12/28), The Guardian (London)(12/28)
sheep, cows, pigs, rabbits, mules, horses, deer, cats and mice have been cloned
for commercial and biomedical purposes. In August, 2005, the first dog was
cloned, an Afghan hound, by South Korean researchers at Seoul National
University where earlier, human embryos had been cloned and stem cells
extracted. The surrogate mother of this cloned dog was a yellow Labrador
retriever. One hundred and twenty three dogs were used as both egg donors and
surrogate mothers, and from over 1,000 prepared eggs or ova each containing a
skin cell from a dog's ear, three pregnancies resulted, one ending in a miscarriage,
one resulting in a pup that died soon after birth from respiratory failure, and
the third a viable clone of a male Afghan hound. Some bioethicists fear that
the cloning of man's best friend is the final stepping stone to eventual public
acceptance of human cloning.
entails taking a single cell from an animal and placing the cell inside the egg
case or ovum taken from another animal of the same species, that has been
emptied of its contents. After a procedure that activates the cell to begin to
divide, the ovum containing the cloning cell is placed in the uterus of a
hormonally receptive surrogate animal. Because of low success rates in getting
the cloned cells to implant into the uterine wall, and because the placenta and
embryo may not develop normally, several ova containing the clone cells may be
put into the surrogate animal's uterus at the same time.
taking a beloved dog or cat to the veterinarian for a routine health check will
have a few cells removed, quickly frozen, and shipped for storage at a Pet
Cloning Center. A processing and
storage fee will be charged, and when the owners want their companion
animals to be cloned, the Center will
begin the process after a substantial down payment has been made, or full
payment has been provided. Before this new biotechnology is perfected and
large-scale operations set up with hundreds, possibly thousands, of caged and
hormonally manipulated female dogs and cats serving as ova donors, and others
being the recipients of ova containing the to-be-cloned pets' cells, the cost
will probably be in the six-figure range for some time before mass-production
follows mass-demand. But there are many concerns other than financial:
cloned dogs will not be exact replicas of peoples' beloved animal companions,
and many clones will probably be spontaneously aborted, or have to be destroyed
because of various birth defects. Abnormalities may also develop later in life.
Clones of other species often have abnormal internal organs, neurological and
immunological problems, and may be abnormally large at birth due to a defective
growth-regulating gene function. What about the origins, quality of life and
future of the thousands of caged female dogs
who will be exploited by the pet cloning industry, and the procedural
risks to their health and overall welfare?
Do the ends justify the
means? There is no evident benefit to the animals themselves.
Why not adopt from an
animal shelter a dog or puppy who looks like the one you miss or might be
passing on soon, who needs a good home; or donate money, equivalent to what it
would cost to produce one clone, toward improving the welfare of hundreds, even
thousands of dogs, and other
animals in communities around the world?
What are these ends anyway? Certainly
there is a commercial end that is potentially lucrative, given the right market
promotion and endorsements by professionals and celebrities.
But is there real human benefit in making a clone of one's beloved
canine companion? Or is it mere
pandering to a misguided sentimentalism?
Because of the close emotional bond between humans and their animal
companions, the pet cloning business I see as an unethical exploitation of the
bond for pecuniary ends. Exact replicas of peoples' dogs cannot be guaranteed,
and will not likely be created because an identical environment during
embryonic and postnatal development cannot be achieved. All clones may, at the
time of birth, be of the same chronological age as the age of the cells taken
from the to-be cloned animals. So if a cell is taken from a six-year-old dog,
because of the aging "clock", the clone may already be aged by six
years at the time it is born.
From various religious and
spiritual perspectives and beliefs, cloning violates the sanctity of life and
the integrity of divine or natural creative processes. It is problematic from
the point of view of
reincarnation, or transmigration of the soul.
From a Buddhist perspective, the consciousness incarnate in the body of
the clone, or the consciousnesses in the bodies of many clones from the same
original animal, are all going to be different from the original donor.
It is not inconceivable
clones might also be created initially on an experimental basis, and used to
provide spare parts such as kidneys, hearts, hips, and knees for ailing
dogs. Research laboratories may also
use cloning to quickly develop identical sets of dogs and other animals for
biomedical research. Some sets and lines of clones having the same genetically
engineered anomalies to serve as high fidelity models of various human diseases
may be created and marketed to develop new and profitable drugs to treat these
conditions in humans and other animals.
The bioethics and medical validity of
these developments need to be examined. And pet owners who put out the money to
have their animal companions cloned may want to think twice, since they may
well be giving this new cloning business not only a financial jump start, but
also the socio-political credibility that it needs in order to gain widespread
public acceptance, and a market for human cloning and for other biologically
anomalous and ethically dubious products and processes.
The fact that a venture capitalist
made a grant of $2.3 million and hired
an agent to find a university biotech.
laboratory already in the cloning business to clone his dog Missy
) and the subsequent public
relations and media promotion of this project, points to another agenda: The
cloning of pets may be a ploy to promote human cloning. If the cloning of pets
becomes a reality,
the public will become desensitized to the issue of cloning and more likely to
eventually accept a highly lucrative biotechnology for childless couples and
rich and selfish singles for the cloning of complete human beings, and of
partial human beings (such as anencephalics or headless clones) as a source of
replacement tissues and organ parts.
The Philosophy Department at Texas
A&M University, where the Missyplicity Project was started in another
department before being spun off into a private company "Genetics, Savings
and Clone", developed a set of
“bioethical guidelines” based on the ethical principle of what they call
axiomatic anthropocentrism. This strategy was clearly designed to deflect
public criticism and concern over the morality and animal welfare aspects of
the Project. Axiomatic anthropocentrism essentially means whatever is good for
people is ethically acceptable.
Anthropocentrism --- human centeredness --- is an outmoded worldview or
paradigm that many advocates of animal rights and environmental protection see
as the root cause of untold animal suffering and ecological devastation over
female dogs were put up for adoption on the web site, one of the company's
"bioethical principles" being that regardless of the source through
which dogs are obtained for use as egg donors or surrogate mothers,( from animal
shelters, breeding, farms, etc), at
the completion of their role in the Missyplicity Project, all dogs shall be
placed in loving homes. No funds shall be expended for dogs raised under
inhumane conditions, such as puppy mills.
The Missyplicity Project included several
goals in addition to the cloning of Missy that were published on the web site.
These included dozens, perhaps hundreds, of scientific papers on canine
reproductive physiology; enhanced reproduction and repopulation of endangered
wild canids; plans to develop improved canine contraceptive and sterilization
methods as a way of preventing the millions of unwanted dogs who are euthanized
in America every year; to clone exceptional dogs of high societal value,
especially search-and-rescue dogs; and develop low-cost commercial dog-cloning
services for the general public.
goals gave the Project the kind of credibility that a gullible public and
organizations and professionals with a limited grasp of the inherent
limitations and harmful consequences of cloning, would readily accept. Ethical
concerns and the questions concerning the validity and relevance of applying
cloning biotechnology to wildlife conservation, to dog overpopulation, and to the
propagation of high performance dogs were cleverly deflected by these
Genetic Savings and Clone, the commercial spin-off from the
Missyplicity Project at Texas A&M University,
launched “Operation CopyCat” in 2000.
The company estimated that the price for
cloning a cat or dog would drop to $25,000 within
three years. They never
succeeded in cloning a dog, and eventually out of business, but
a northern California
biotech company, BioArts International created several cloned cats
for sale at $
50,000 each that turned out to be a commercial flop.
with the disgraced* cloning scientist Hwang Woo Suk who had succeeded
dogs in Korea, in an effort to market cloned dogs in the US in
International set up a public auction to clone five dogs for
willing customers, with bids
starting at $100,000! In another publicity stunt, this company
offered owners a free
chance to have their dogs cloned, and chose the German shepherd
who worked in the rubble of the 9/11 terrorist attack at
the World Trade Center in new York city, as the ‘most
* Woo Suk was
indictment for embezzling research funds in Korea, and for violating ethics
laws in the course of acquiring hundreds of eggs from women for his cloning
research, when his business association with BioArts international was made.
For additional information about
cloning, and the creation of transgenic animals, see: M. W. Fox (2004) Killer
Foods: When Scientists Manipulate
Genes, Better is Not Always Best. New York: The Lyons Press; and, M. W. Fox
(2001) Bringing Life to Ethics: Global Bioethics for a Humane Society.
Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.