Biotech Company to Offer Dog Cloning at Auction
Originally published in Animal World magazine
BioArts International, a biotech firm based in Mill Valley, California, has announced its intention to hold a series of online auctions starting June 18th that will offer five people the opportunity to have their dogs cloned. Bidding for this service will start at $100,000 on the first day of the auction, and is expected to reach at least $180,000 on the final day. The project, called Best Friends Again, has sparked controversy and outrage from scientists and ethicists, as well as animal rights proponents who argue that the cloning process creates additional animal suffering.
Cloning is a relatively new and flawed technology that carries with it a very low survival rate for cloned embryos. Typically, hundreds of embryos must be created to bring one cloned animal into the world, and those who survive birth suffer an accelerated rate of physical disorders. Surrogate hosts who carry the embryos to term are also subjected to invasive procedures. Animal suffering is compounded by the fact that the cloning industry currently operates with absolutely no regulatory oversight.
BioArts has contracted with a South Korean research team led by Hwang Woo-suk, the disgraced scientist who withdrew into seclusion in 2005 after infamously faking his human cloning experiments with embryonic stem cells. The cloning process involves performing a tissue biopsy from a dog who is either still alive or has died in the last five days, then storing the DNA in the tissue sample at a gene banking facility until the cloning process is underway.
BioArts admits that they cannot produce a replica of an animal companion, and that a cloned dog will not be the same as the dog who is cloned. Yet the company also preys upon emotionally vulnerable guardians who love their dogs by claiming that the cloned dog will be genetically identical, much like a twin sibling. They also claim that familiar personality traits are likely to be passed on if the cloned dog is raised in a similar environment to the original animal.
While a few wealthy individuals are willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money to preserve their favorite canine, between three and four million dogs will be killed this year in shelters for lack of homes. Like the animal breeding industry, cloning animal companions brings new animals into a world in which so many millions are already waiting on death row.
BioArts' answer to this objection is that they are only cloning five animals, and they have not yet decided whether they will offer the service again. However, the company claims it has been granted an exclusive license to clone dogs, cats, and other animals using the same patented process that brought Dolly the sheep, the first cloned animal, into existence. It therefore seems likely that they will indeed continue to clone animals in greater numbers if they can make a profit from the venture.
You can help offset the suffering of cloned animals by encouraging Congress to pass legislation that would regulate the commercial animal companion cloning industry.