The idea of
cloning higher life forms has served as fodder for science fiction
writers and filmmakers for decades. The theory became a reality,
however, in 1997 when Scottish scientists at the Roslin Institute in
Great Britain cloned Dolly from a cell of an adult sheep. Dolly opened
the door to further experimentation, and researchers have since
successfully cloned mice, goats, monkeys, pigs, and yes, cats and dogs.
At least three companies, some with clever monikers like Genetics
Savings and Clone, and perPETuate, have offered storage capabilities and
facilities for preserving tissue samples from an adored pet, so that
Fido or Felix can be next in line for resurrection from the dead.
The question of whether cats and dogs can be successfully
cloned takes a backseat to a more pressing question, namely: Why do it at
all? There is no doubt that
the clone will have the same external appearance as the original pet. It
will have the same hair color and the same eye color, as these traits are
100% genetically determined. Personality,
however, is influenced by a combination of genetics and environment.
Because the cloned pet will not be living under the exact same
environmental conditions, it will not have the same personality.
Always living in the shadow of the original, it will never get a
chance to develop its own character.
Any deviation from the original pet’s personality is more likely
to be viewed as a experimental failure, and be greeted with annoyance and
disappointment instead of with the joy that one should feel when a puppy
or kitten’s natural and unique personality begins to bloom.
Another ethical concern centers around pet overpopulation. True animal lovers should realize the self-centered motives
behind their wish to clone their pet, and instead should redirect their
effort toward adopting a cat or dog in need of a good home. With almost 7 million homeless cats and dogs euthanized in
animal shelters every year, pet cloning seems exceedingly selfish and
Undoubtedly, there are many potential good uses for cloning
higher animals. Producing
cattle free of the prion responsible for bovine spongiform encephalitis
(mad cow disease) springs to mind, as well as preserving or rescuing
endangered species. Given
mankind’s propensity to exploit animals for the almighty dollar, I fear
that these cloned endangered species would probably be put in a zoo or a
facility not unlike Jurassic Park, with the requisite hefty admission
price. Rather than rely on cloning, we should devote ourselves to
preserving the habitats that would allow endangered species to reproduce
We navigate a slippery slope when we go from cloning food
animals and wild animals to companion animals.
With no guarantee of an identical personality, and an estimated
cost of $20,000 to $200,000 per cloned pet, one should really reconsider
freezing a chunk of Fluffy for future resurrection.
When last I checked, humane organizations and shelters were
offering healthy cats, dogs, kittens and puppies, fully vaccinated,
de-wormed, spayed and neutered, with personalities all their own
for $100 -