Anyone who has lost a cherished dog understands the desire to have our loved one back. But cloning an animal, as Barbra Streisand did with her dog Samantha, is folly.
Cloning is a horror show: a waste of lives, time and money. The suffering that such experiments cause is unimaginable. There is no good excuse for it, and it should be ended now.
We understand Streisand’s grief, and we have great compassion for her. But she adored Samantha because she was Samantha. Everything about this dog — her quirks, her interests, her temperament — everything that made her such an endearing animal was unique. You can’t replicate personality in a laboratory.
Those who pay for this procedure may not be warned that the dogs are likely to bear no behavioral resemblance to their lost companions, even if they share the same DNA. Three dogs who were cloned from some of South Korea’s best police “sniffer dogs” failed to perform even basic tasks.
When you consider that millions of equally personable dogs are euthanized in animal shelters every year for lack of a home, cloning is all the more indefensible. Not only does it result in even more births, it also involves the suffering of animals in laboratories.
To clone a dog, living cells are obtained from a tissue sample, and eggs are harvested from a “donor.” The eggs are shocked with electricity to prompt them to begin dividing. The nucleus is then removed from the donor’s eggs and injected with material from the animal to be cloned. A surrogate mother dog carries the embryos to term.
Dogs are not test tubes, and subjecting them to painful experiments should remain within the realm of bad sci-fi flicks. When people poke, prod, cut, and hurt animals, they can and should be charged with a crime. Wearing a lab coat doesn’t make it any less perverse.
In the decades since the first cloned animal, Dolly the sheep, became the poster child for the procedure, and countless deaths later, there’s been little improvement in the effectiveness of the technique.
Cloning has a high failure rate, so countless dogs are caged and tormented for every birth that actually occurs. Mortality rates among young cloned animals are extremely high during both pregnancy and infancy. Dolly the sheep was the sole surviving animal from 277 attempts, and as many as 90 percent of attempts fail. While the success rate for cloned dogs can be slightly higher than for other animals, dozens must be caged and subjected to repeated traumatic procedures in order to create one dog for a paying customer. And many of the resulting puppies won’t survive. One South Korean laboratory that has churned out more than 600 cloned dogs admits that the process works only about 33 percent to 40 percent of the time.
Over the last few decades, thousands of dogs have been subjected to the invasive procedure touted in this profitable business, and many “donor” animals are forced to spend their entire lives in a cage awaiting the needle. Are their lives less valuable than Samantha’s?
The irony is that while shelters everywhere struggle to raise enough money to fund spay and neuter clinics and provide high-quality care, laboratories that clone are raking in the bucks. Streisand may have paid upwards of $100,000 in her effort to recreate Samantha. While she has every right to spend her money in any way she chooses, one must ponder how many animals just as deserving as Samantha could have been helped instead.
A spokesperson for Miami-Dade County’s animal services department lamented that the $155,000 a Florida couple had paid to clone their dog could fund “spays and neuters for six months.”
The sheer pleasure of sharing our lives with a dog is something to treasure, and it’s why losing them is such a devastating blow. But the best thing that we can do is to honor them by keeping them in our hearts and cherishing our beautiful memories of them. We can also honor them by recognizing that they aren’t reproducible.
Kathy Guillermo is a senior vice president for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.