December 19, 2018
Disease, Defects and Danger: The Unhappy Truth Behind Pet Cloning
(Dailystar) Genetic experts are now queuing up to discourage people from paying for the expensive cloning procedure in the vain hope they can bring beloved family pets back from the dead.
Pet cloning has become more and more popular in recent years, with surging numbers of people paying thousands of pounds to have their adored cats and dogs cloned.
Celebrities have particularly widened the appeal of what was once considered an ethically dubious science, with stars such as Barbara Streisand and fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg "recreating" their dogs.
But while it seems like the ideal solution to losing a pet, many experts are speaking out to warn unsuspecting animal-lovers of the perils of doing so. One of the main problems with cloning pets is that they often turn out completely differently.
A number of owners who paid for the costly procedure have come forward in the last couple of years to reveal cloning has not lived up to what they thought it would be. Huang Yu, from the city of Wenzhou, in China, paid $35,000 (£27,000) to have his cat Garlic cloned this year after being left utterly bereft when the feline passed away. But when the new kitten – also named Garlic – was born in July to a surrogate mother in Beijing, Huang realized the two cats were completely different, not even sharing a physical resemblance.
Speaking about his experience to the New York Times, Huang admitted: “If I tell you I wasn’t disappointed, then I would be lying to you.” Another case that bears striking similarities to this one is that of Ralph Fisher, who paid to have his tame bull Chance cloned. And things seemed okay at first when the bull he decided to call Second Chance was born. For example, the clone ate the unusual way Ralph recognized from its predecessor – lifting his head and chewing rather than dipping his whole head in the feed bucket.
“I’ve never seen another animal do that,” Fisher said of this. “I thought it was the same animal. I would say we got him back." But it wasn't long for the differences to begin emerging, including, most scarily, that Second Chance was not as tame as his parent clone and attacked Ralph twice. Biotechnology expert Mark Westhusin, who was involved in the procedure that created Chance in 1999, explained: “People want to believe it is resurrection. “It is in fact not resurrection. It’s just reproduction.”
And the problems don't just stop there. A cloned animal may also come with a whole host of health issues that were not present in the 'original'. The National Human Genome Research Institute, in Bethesda, US, has warned of the potential problems cloned creatures may have, including higher instances of disease.
"These include an increase in birth size and a variety of defects in vital organs, such as the liver, brain and heart,” it reported. “Other consequences include premature ageing and problems with the immune system.”
Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1996 and only lived half the average lifespan of a sheep. Although proof of this is harder to find with pet cloning still a rarity, there is some anecdotal evidence, such as how Dolly the Sheep lived just six years – half the average lifespan of a sheep.
But this has not stopped companies promising they can provide a perfectly cloned copy of heartbroken pet-owners' beloved companion. One South Korean dog cloning service even boasts: “Let us be of aid to you and your family.
“With respect to the companions who have consoled our weary hearts and made the happy memories. “How would it feel like to start again with your companion? It is now possible to make your dreams come true with biotechnology.”
Finally, there are the obvious very serious ethical concerns about cloning, such as how little this kind of cutting-edge science can be properly overseen by governing bodies.
Medical ethicist Dr Ronald Munson previously went as far as to called cloning the "theater of the absurd acted out by scientists". One of the main concerns he raised was how of hand cloning could get, having first made these comments in the 1990's. Cloning has certainly come a long way since Dolly was born in 1996 – and it'll undoubtedly go a lot further.
W. O. Belfield, Jr.