We are told that dogs and cats are increasingly being cloned because their owners refuse to let them go. They want to continue their relationship with their beloved companion animal. This is entirely understandable. You don’t want to let go something that brings you pleasure. It is a reflection of the deep relationships that humans have with their companion animals. However, on balance, I think that it is a bad idea. These are my five reasons.
Not the same animal
My understanding of animal cloning is that you create the same animal in respect of appearance. And I presume that you create the same animal in respect of inherited character because both of these are created genetically. However, at the end of the day you do not have the same animal because their life experiences are different.
And as the reason for cloning is to continue to live with exactly the same animal, cloning companion animals is a failure. You end up with an animal that looks like your deceased pet but is not quite the same creature. This must be a disappointment.
Barbra Streisand by implication admits this. You may remember that she had her dog cloned. Two cloned puppies were created and they had different personalities than Samantha her original dog. They probably had different personalities between themselves as well. She said that “each puppy is unique and has her own personality. You can clone the look of a dog but you can’t clone the soul.”
So, the first reason why it’s a bad idea to clone your pet is because you don’t end up with the same animal that you loved so deeply. That, to me, fatally undermines the concept of animal cloning.
Health and lifespan
There are question marks about the lifespan and general health of cloned animals. Perhaps this is early days and the scientists are learning about the potential pitfalls. But my understanding of the process is that there are some concerns about the health of cloned companion animals. If a cloned animal is less healthy than the original animal then there is a moral conundrum here because self-indulgence is leading to distress in animals.
Although the success rate is now much higher than it was in the early days at about 20%, it took one cloning process 1,000 embryos implanted into 123 surrogate mothers before there were three pregnancies. This is because the cloning process requires that the cells that have been created artificially are implanted into a surrogate dog or cat mother. An electrical burst jump starts cell division but this does not always work. So, the second reason is that the success rate is quite low although scientist might say that 20% is high.
As part of the cloning process, as I understand it, eggs are harvested from female dogs. They are brought into a laboratory. They manually remove the nucleus with a fine pipette needle. This strips the egg of the genetic material that they contain making the egg cell essentially a blank slate for scientists to fill with DNA of their choosing. Therefore, the scientist who clone pets have to harvest eggs from dogs and cats. This might not seem like a big problem but it is a downside as I see it.
Cloning animals is trying to buck the natural process. It’s trying to avoid what happens naturally. And I think that when humans play God and try and avoid or manipulate the natural process they are in dangerous territory. The long-term consequences might be unforeseen.
Surely it is better to hold your beloved companion animal in your mind as memory. Memory can be as alive and as colourful as the real thing. And you don’t have to do anything scientific or clever to achieve that.
Arguably, and I do not want to criticise, it is at least slightly self-indulgent to create in a Frankenstein-like way your beloved pet to enjoy her company another 15 years.
We don’t know what these people think after living with their cloned pet for about five or ten years. I do not have that information. I wonder if they were entirely satisfied. Perhaps after five or ten years they forget their original animal and the pain of their passing dissolves and fades away. At that point the cloning process becomes somewhat pointless.
Postscript: I have not mentioned the cost which can be as high as $50,000. Kelli Anderson, 32, from Texas spent $25,000 cloning her dead cat Chai who she believed was her soulmate. She said that Chai was “the closest thing she could describe as a soulmate those clothes.
Note: This is an embedded video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source or the video is turned into a link which stops it working here. I have no control over this.
Above is the video from the Mail Online Website on the story. I could, therefore, add a sixth reason why cloning is bad: the cost! You could put that money somewhere else to improve your life and the lives of others. It could be used more productively I feel.