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Cloning and Animal Welfare

Center for Food Safety

Animal cloning represents a fundamental change in our relationship with animals. Instead of humans assisting or acting as midwives in animal reproduction, cloning allows humans to become wholesale creators of genetic “replicas” of existing animals.

Ignored in the media hype over Dolly the sheep, the first cloned animal, was the appallingly high failure rate inherent in animal cloning.  Problems associated with cloning include:

  • Pre-Natal Failures: Only a small percentage of cloned pregnancies result in live births. A 2007 study found that animal cloning failure rates remain as high as 90 percent (3).
  • Surrogate (Host) Suffering: “Host mothers” face grave suffering, much of which is caused by inordinately high rates of spontaneous abortions. Cloning often leads to a condition known as “large-offspring syndrome,” whereby cloned offspring grow abnormally large, causing early-term and stressful caesarian deliveries (4). In one cattle cloning project, 3 out of 12 surrogate mothers died during pregnancy (5).
  • Post-Natal Animal Health: Most cloned animals born on a farm, outside a veterinary hospital, have little chance of surviving (6). Those animals that manage to survive until birth are likely to suffer a wide range of health defects and deformities including: enlarged tongues; squashed faces; intestinal blockages; immune deficiencies; diabetes; high rates of heart and lung damage; kidney failure; and brain abnormalities (7).

In fact, Dolly herself succumbed to a progressive lung disease and had to be euthanized at the age of six, approximately midway through her expected lifespan (14). Oddly enough, sheep were the only species of cloned animal the FDA denied food use approval for, citing “insufficient information” on the health of cloned sheep, other than poor Dolly.

Ethical Implications

Americans also have strong feelings about the moral and ethical implications of animal cloning, and these feelings have yet to be aired in a broad, public debate. More than 200 U.S. religious leaders have announced their opposition to patenting animal genes, tissue, organs, and organisms, due to their belief that genetic manipulation and life patenting shifts authorship of life from God to scientists and lab-technicians. Animal cloners have also acknowledged that the technology will likely lead to human cloning attempts, despite the safety and ethical issues that surround such risky experiments. In fact, the two leading animal cloning companies (ViaGen and Cyagra*) were created by the companies most involved in human embryo cloning experiments. Viagen is not the only US company cloning animals for food (7). Hematech Pharmaceuticals in South Dakota is cloning and genetically engineering cows they purport to be “mad cow resistant,” but their CEO claims that they are not planning these as food animals, but rather pharmaceutical producers.

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* NOTE: Cyagra was purchased by Argentina’s richest man. In 2002, he purchased Cyagra from Advanced Cell Technology (ACT). Cyagra has a licensing agreement with ACT that allows it to use ACT's human-cloning technology to breed animals. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1301215/Wisconsins-king-copy-cattle-Farmer-sold-cloned-cow-embryos-Britain-claims-fell-sales-patter-promising-prize-animal-live-ever.html#ixzz2IvpMAc1P

 

References

 

1 Panarace, et al. (2007) “How healthy are clones and their progeny: 5 years of field experience.” Theriogenology, Vol. 67:142–151.

 

2 E. M. Hallerman. (2002) “Will Food Products From Cloned Animals Be Commercialized Soon?” ISB News Report, November, p. 1.

 

3 “Cloned Pigs Differ From Originals in Looks and Behavior,” Science Daily, North Carolina State University, April 16, 2003. online at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/04/030416085546.htm

 

4 J. C. Cross. (2001) “Factors Affecting the Development Potential of Cloned Mammalian Embryos,” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 98, no. 11: 5949-5951.

 

5 Jorge Piedrahita, et al., “Somatic Cell Cloning: The Ultimate Form of Nuclear Reprogramming?” J. Am. Soc. Nephrol., Vol. 15:1140-1144; see also Melissa Schorr. (2001) “Geneticists Warn Of Human Cloning Dangers,” Reuters Health, March 29.

 

6 Rhind, W. Cui, T. King, W. Ritchie, D. Wylie, and I. Wilmut, “Dolly: A Final Report,” Journal of Reproduction, Fertility, and Development 16, no. 2 (January 2, 2004): 156.

 

7 Melissa del Bosque, “Clone on the Range: Can an Austin biotech firm radically change the world's food supply?” Texas Observer (September 14, 2011). Online at: http://www.texasobserver.org/clone-on-the-range-2/  

 

 

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