In the late 1800’s, a scientist named Hans Dreich successfully cloned sea urchins to prove that genetic material was not lost during cell division. Throughout the next century, various other scientists experimented with animal cloning for a variety of reasons. Widespread debate over animal cloning was generally silent until February 1997 when Ian Wilmut and a team of researchers from the Roslind Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland announced that a cloned sheep named Dolly was born in the summer of 1996. Dolly was the first mammal to be cloned from a cell of an adult animal. To scientists, this breakthrough opened a door of possibilities. Since that time, animal cloning has been used in the medical, agricultural and companion animal fields to produce genetically identical mice, cattle, rabbits, dogs and cats. Current cloning research efforts are taking place on endangered and extinct species and even human embryos. Humane and religious organizations and the general public have made their objections to animal cloning known. Animal cloning should not continue because it subjects animals to unnecessary suffering, can have negative impacts on the environment, subtracts from the dignity of unique life and is against God’s will.
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Although cloning has been researched widely in the last two decades, the process is inefficient and subjects both surrogates and offspring to a variety of health risks and unnecessary suffering. Studies have been conducted that indicate the failure rate of cloning is between 88 and 95% depending on the species involved (Fiester, 2005). This means that out of 100 embryos, only 5 to 12 will actually develop into a live offspring. Surgery is used to obtain eggs from donor animals and implant them into surrogate animals. The fetuses that survive to birth have been shown to have a high birth rate that subjects the surrogate animal to C-section, another surgical procedure. Cloning of cattle, sheep, and mice can result in healthy offspring, but the birth rate is less than 5% (Palmieri, Loi, Ptak & Della Salda, 2008). For minimal results, surrogates of cloned animals are subjected to substantial amount of surgery that result unnecessary pain and suffering.
Cloned offspring that survive have also been shown to have numerous health problems and a low survival rate. Physical issues in cattle clones, including enlarged internal organs, difficulty in breathing and standing, blood abnormalities, infections, and heart defects, have led to up to 40% of clones dying before 6 months of age (Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, 2009). Other cloned species such as rabbits, mice and cats have had offspring that have had similar health problems. Cloned offspring are much more likely than non-cloned animals to be miscarried, have congenital defects, develop serious illnesses, and die prematurely (Bok, 2002). The suffering of these animals would be prevented if the cloning process is ceased.
From an ecological perspective, cloning endangered and extinct animals is not practical. Cloning endangered species may lead to apathy regarding the issues of why species are becoming endangered in the first place (Salsberg, 2000). For example, if habitat destruction is responsible for the reduced numbers of a species, then preservation of habitat should be focused on. Cloning would not serve a purpose if an animal does not have the appropriate environment to live in. Introducing a cloned species of an extinct animal to the current environment could have detrimental effects to the delicate balance of the ecosystem. One example on how an introduced species destroyed an ecosystem has been demonstrated in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. Humans introduced goats to the islands from the 1920’s to 1940’s. The goats grazed so much of the native plant life that they caused erosion and threatened the survival of plants and trees that the giant tortoises that lived there depended on for food. Giant tortoise numbers declined so drastically in the following decades that they are now classified as an endangered species. Introducing a cloned animal to a current environment could have the same effect on existing species.
Genetic diversity is essential for the survival of a species. Following the principles of natural selection, if there is no natural genetic variation within a population of organisms, none of the individuals would have the ability to survive and reproduce more successfully than others in a changing environment. Because cloning produces genetically identical individuals, one pathologic or environmental disaster could wipe out a population of clones quickly (Salsberg, 2002). For example, a normal population of cattle would consist of genetically diverse individuals in an environment. If the herd was exposed to a virus, some of the individuals would die from the affects of the virus and some would have a natural immunity to the virus. In this case, the cattle with a natural immunity to the virus would survive to propagate the species. If the same virus was exposed to a herd of genetically identical individuals that did not have a natural immunity to the virus, the entire herd would parish. Maintaining genetic diversity is important to the survival of a population, so cloning large numbers of the same animal serves no purpose to the survival of a species and goes against the principles of evolution.
In addition to the scientific reasons why animal cloning should be halted, there are also multiple moral and ethical concerns regarding animal cloning. A poll conducted in 2006 by the International Food Information Council showed that 58% of Americans surveyed would be unlikely to buy meat or milk from animal clones even if United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found the products to be safe. However, there is little regulation of distribution of food product that originates from cloned animals. The agricultural industry uses cloning to replicate animals that generate the most milk or produce the best quality meat. Currently, the FDA does not require special labeling by manufacturers to alert consumers that the food they are buying is a result of cloning. The FDA says that the safety of beef from cloned animals and their offspring is identical to beef from traditionally bred animals and is safe to eat (United States Food and Drug Administration, 2008). The FDA also states on its website that it is only responsible for the addressing the issue of food safety and not the moral debate that consumers may have about cloned cattle used for beef in the food supply. If consumers do not want to buy products from cloned animals, for either safety or moral concerns, there is no need for agricultural cloning to continue.
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After the successful birth of Dolly the sheep in 1996, a wealthy man approached researchers at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas AHYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_A&M_University”&HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_A&M_University”M University about cloning his dog, Missy. This led to a project called “Missyplicity.” Although the cloning of Missy failed, the project did result in the cloning the first companion animal, CC or Copy Cat, in 2002. The birth of CC sparked outrage from animal welfare groups. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year. The cost to clone a companion animal can run upwards of $50,000 while a person can go to a shelter and adopt a pet for less than $100. Adopting a shelter animal would save the life of an animal that would otherwise be subject to euthanasia. Companies that offer companion animal cloning are taking advantage of grieving owners because cloning a companion animal does not result in an identical copy of the original animal. The appearance and personality of the cloned animal is different even though the underlying genetics are identical, as indicated by CC. The dignity of a cloned companion animal would also compromised by the fact that it would always be regarded as a research project by those who created it. Also at question is whether or not current research efforts would lead to human cloning. Cloning would take away the uniqueness of the individual and would diminish the value of life since it could essentially be created in a Petri dish.
From a religious point of view, cloning has been criticized by such leaders as Pope John Paul II, Chief Rabbi of Israel Meir Law and representatives of Sunni Islam on the grounds that it is against Judeo-Christian and Islamic Laws (Salsberg, 2000). The cloning of current or extinct animals is against God’s will and a reversal of all that is natural. Some religious groups also see the resurrection of extinct animals as the beginning of the Apocalypse (Salsberg, 2000). Because animal cloning is dependent on the hand of man instead of God, it should not be practiced.
In summary, animal cloning results in unnecessary suffering and harm to animals, can result in substantial ecological disturbance and environmental damage, and is against the moral, ethical and religious beliefs of the public. Although the use of animal cloning could be used to benefit the human population, the risks associated with cloning make it an ineffective choice of research methods and should not be allowed to continue.
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