The Ethics of Pet Cloning

Anyone who passes through a grocery checkout line on a weekly basis is unable to remain ignorant of the latest thoughts and insights from Hollywood. With ethical pronouncements from Hollywood, I usually find it reliable to point my moral compass in the opposite direction, at least until I have time to further evaluate the issue. Such was the case with a recent National Enquirer scoop that Barbara Streisand has cloned her now deceased Coton du Tulear dog Samantha, producing two offspring, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett. The fact that she cloned her pet was interesting in its own right, as I did not realize this process was commercially available to the general (wealthy) public. Perhaps more interesting was the backlash Ms Streisand has experienced from Twitter (generally) and PETA (specifically) largely on ethical grounds. More on this in a moment. The Streisand scoop actually should be credited to a Variety interview and the initial ethical discussion to both the New York Times and Fox News (offering, no surprise, differing vantage points)

Sone of Streisand’s harshest criticism came from Twitter under the hashtag #adoptdontclone. One argument against the pet cloning process was that it was unjust; given the fact that only rich people could afford the price tag, which according the NYT link above ranged around $50,000. Another argument against the process was to remind Ms. Streisand that Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett were not the same as the original Samantha, even though they might look or even act in a manner that might remind Streisand of her dear departed. These arguments touched on the very themes of genetic determinism vs. environmental nurture, admittedly in a rudimentary way. The PETA arguments described the pain and suffering they claimed that the female dogs experienced during the required egg harvesting needed for the cloning process to be successful, arguments eerily similar to risks women experience related to egg harvesting for some IVF procedures.

The strongest or, at least, most popular argument leveled at Ms. Streisand was that cloning her pet eliminated the possibility that she might adopt an already existing puppy, who very much needed a loving pet owner to provide that puppy a better future. While no one presently is making a similar argument against human cloning in favor of human adoption (since human cloning is presently illegal), similar arguments have been made with IVF vs. adoption.

The point of all this was to appreciate some of the ethical arguments by the lay press presently used against pet cloning by Hollywood’s elite and wonder whether, if and when human cloning is accessible to the general (wealthy) public in the future, similar arguments will resurface to protect the humans involved then with the same loud voice used to protect the animals now.