Cloning pets will cause distress in both the person who wants a clone of their deceased pet and the pets being cloned. For that reason it is unethical and should not take place. In addition it simply does not work despite the fact that 500 dogs have been cloned by the Sooam Biotech company on South Korea.
There is a danger that people in the UK will get the wrong impression. With the arrival of the first cloned dog in the UK last Saturday (4 days ago), some ill-informed cat or dog lovers with enough money may fall into the trap of believing that they can turn the clock back to the way things were before their beloved cat or dog died. They can’t.
A UK dog called Winnie has been cloned. The cloned dog is called mini-Winnie. The cloning took place in South Korea. The dog’s owner, Rebecca Smith won a competition. The prize was free cloning of her dog, which normally costs £60,000. In terms of the potential and actual distress that cloning causes the cost is more than that.
Firstly, it is a waste of money because you can’t clone personality. Personality is formed through nature (inherited traits) and nurture (experiences). It is a combination of the two. Cloning is ostensibly human controlled nature but the scientist who does the cloning can’t replicate the experiences that Winnie went through which created her personality so the cloned dog will have different experiences and end up with a different character.
This is very important because it is the dog’s personality that is probably more important to the owner than appearance. Also, the scientists say that even genetically identical pets don’t necessarily look the same.
The head of developmental genetics at the Medical Research Council, Robin Lovell-Badge says:
“It’s a ridiculous waste of money as well as being ethically dubious.”
The technique used to create Winnie was the same as the same as for the famous Dolly, the cloned sheep.
What people possibly don’t realise is that the process involves several failed attempts before a healthy clone is created. There were several unhealthy mini-Winnies before a healthy version was created. This must means killing newborn animals or they die shortly after “creation”. Personally, I find that that fact alone is sufficient to call the whole concept unethical. In fact, it is worse than that because although mini-Winnie may appear to be initially healthy, she may become unhealthy in the future. Abnormalities may develop.
In the cloning of mice it has been found that although they look fine at birth they become very obese at the age where they can reproduce. Other species of animal that have been cloned have developed immune disorders and cancer. The type of abnormality depends on the species. It seems that cloning is a failure if we are honest but it has obvious appeal to the gullible cat or dog lover who is in a vulnerable state after the death of a beloved companion.
It would appear that each country will have to rely on their own laws as to whether pet cloning takes place in that country. In the UK it is unlikely to happen because a Home Office animal experimentation license is required, which is unlikely to be granted for the reasons stated above.