Concerns about cloning animals for food go beyond questions of food safety. In addition to concern for animal welfare
, many people have ethical and moral qualms about animal cloning. According to recent surveys, for example, 64 percent of Americans think cloning is “morally wrong,”1
and another 63 percent would not buy cloned food even it were labeled as “safe.”2
A fundamental argument of those who have ethical concerns about animal cloning is that just because scientists can
clone animals for food, doesn’t mean they should
. Some of the ethical implications of animal cloning are discussed below:
Industrial farm animal production
The 2008 report by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production concluded that significant changes are needed in how farmed animals are raised in the U.S.,3 but cloning would move us in the opposite direction. Cloning promotes the objectification and commodification of animals, treating these living sentient beings as mere machines for human manufacture. In addition, as the public becomes increasingly aware of the treatment of farmed animals, many are concerned that cloning highly productive animals exacerbates animal welfare problems, because these animals tend to suffer from painful infections of the udder, lameness, and other ‘production-related’ diseases.
Human cloning and genetic engineering
In addition to concerns about animal welfare, many worry that the technology used to clone animals is the same that can be used to clone humans or produce transgenic animals, but the implications of such applications have yet to be fully examined. Researchers in England and Australia have already backed proposals to create human-animal hybrids, for example by fusing a human cell to an animal egg to create embryos that are 99.9 percent human and 0.1 percent rabbit.4 People are concerned that cloning represents a dangerous 'transgression' of science.5
Many also feel that cloning is “not natural” because, overall, cloning requires a significantly greater level of involvement and interference with animals’ reproductive performance than conventional production methods. Several religious groups, including from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths, have rejected animal cloning on ethical grounds. Cloning and genetic engineering are viewed by these groups as tantamount to “playing God.”6
Nearly 90 percent of Americans want the government to factor in ethical considerations when making a decision on animal cloning.7
Such discussions are taking place around the world, with countries such as Canada, Taiwan, Japan, and the European Union saying they will consider the public’s concerns about animal cloning before deciding if they will accept the technology.
The European Commission, for example, asked the European Group on Ethics to issue an expert opinion on the ethical implications of cloning animals for food. The group concluded in early 2008 that, particularly due to the animal suffering involved, it could find no ethical justification for cloning animals.8
The European Food Safety Authority also concluded that, “The health and welfare of a significant proportion of clones has been found to be adversely affected.” 9
It was irresponsible for the FDA to allow cloned animals into the food supply without allowing similar discussions to take place in the U.S. Given the severity of the animal health problems
associated with cloning, and the magnitude of ethical qualms Americans have with using the technology, there is both a pressing need and an overwhelming demand for the government to establish a proper regulatory framework to oversee animal cloning, one that takes into consideration both ethics and science.
In October 2006, AAVS joined with the Center for Food Safety and several other animal welfare, consumer, and environmental organizations to petition the FDA to establish an ethics Advisory Committee, similar to ones set up to discuss human genetic technologies, to provide an opportunity for public participation and transparency in the animal cloning debate.
An advisory committee, mirroring the Health and Human Services Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society, which serves as a public forum for deliberations on the broad societal issues raised by the development and use of genetic technologies in humans,10
would serve to deliberate both publicly and officially the ethical challenges presented by animal cloning.
Though the FDA chose to deny the petition, AAVS continues to work with federal agencies and Congress to ensure that the animal welfare
and ethical implications of cloning are fully considered before the moratorium on animal clones is lifted.
As surveys have shown, the public’s concerns for animal welfare and ethics have the potential to greatly impact the agricultural market and foreign trade, and consumers should have a voice in how their food is produced. However, the FDA has stated that it will not require food from cloned animals to be labeled. That means that consumers who oppose animal cloning on animal welfare, religious, or moral grounds would be forced to unwittingly make purchases that violate their ethical principles.
That is why AAVS is also supporting legislation that would require food from cloned animals and their offspring, if they are approved for sale, to be labeled. Consumers have a right to know how their food was produced so they can make informed decisions about what they buy and what they feed their families.
1. Tucker-Foreman, C. (2002). Public interest perspective on animal cloning. In: Animal cloning and the production of food products: Perspectives from the food chain. Proceedings from a workshop sponsored by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology and the Center for Veterinary Medicine of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
2. Dairy industry support continued FDA ban on selling cloned-cow milk (2005, July 15). Washington Times. Retrieved Oct. 2006, from: http://www.organicconsumers.org/toxic/clone.cfm.
3. Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (2008). Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial farm animal production in America.
4. Sample, I. (2006, Oct. 5). Stem Cell Experts Seek License to Create Human-Rabbit Embryo. The Guardian.
5. Center for Food Safety (2006). Petition Seeking Regulation of Cloned Animals. Docket # 2006P-0415.
6. FDA to Consider Morals, Ethics in Animal Cloning Policy (2005). FDA Week, 11(38).
7. AAVS (2006). Animal Cloning Survey. Prepared by Opinion Research Corporation.
8. The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies to the European Commission (2008). Opinion No. 23 Ethical aspects of animal cloning for food supply.
9. European Food Safety Authority (2008). Draft Scientific Opinion on Food Safety, Animal Health and Welfare and Environmental Impact of Animals derived from Cloning by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) and their Offspring and Products Obtained from those Animals.
10. Established pursuant to Section 222, 42 U.S.C. § 217a, of the Public Health Service Act.