Copy Cats:
The Ethics of Cloning Pets

Cloning, General Bioethics — By on April 28, 2004 at 1:49 am

There is something oddly disconcerting about the way modern life has begun to resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Take, for example, the 2000 sci-fi thriller ‘The Sixth Day” which featured a pet cloning company called RePet in which customer’s could graft their animal companion’s DNA onto a pre-grown biological blank and within a matter of hours, have an exact replica of Spot or Fluffy. RePet promised pet owners: ‘Should accident, illness or age end your pet’s natural life, our proven genetic technology can have him or her back the same day, in perfect health, with zero defects, GUARANTEED.”
While same-day service is not yet available, a California company has begun taking orders for clones of pet cats. According to the BBC, five customers have already plunked down $50,000 a piece to have Genetic Savings & Clone perform the cloning procedure. CEO Lou Hawthorne assembled a team comprised of scientists who were involved with Texas A & M University in creating the world’s first cat clone, Cc, short for “Carbon Copy.” Hawthorne claims that Cc is now a ‘healthy and adorable two-year-old.”
Customers may be disappointed with the results, though, since what they’ll be getting for their money is not the pet they lost but a genetic replica. As Hawthorne notes,

“There are people out there who use the statement that cloning is reproduction not resurrection. But the interesting part from the genetic perspective is that this is resurrection.
“It is not in terms of a level of consciousness, but in terms of genetics you are getting the same animal back. Personality-wise there are differences.”

While ‘genetic resurrection” may lead to interesting bioethics discussions (or to banal plots in B-horror movies) it’s unclear why this would be of value to a pet owner. As David Magnus, co-director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University, points out: “The people who want this are spending huge sums of money to get their pet immortalized or to guarantee they’re getting a pet exactly like the one they had before – and it’s simply not possible.”
Although GSC promises a full refund to any customers who are not satisfied, it still seems morally problematic to exploit the human/pet bond, particularly when genetics has little impact on the characteristics — lovability, personality, shared memories — that make animal companionship worthwhile. Arguments against taking advantage of people (particularly wealthy eccentrics) are unlikely to have much of an impact in our libertarian/capitalist society, though, so this is probably a minor concern for most people.
What should be of importance, however, is the ethical issues surrounding the treatment of these animals. The main question that needs to be addressed is why we would condone a procedure that is ultimately unnecessary and which increases the amount of animal suffering in the world. As John Hopkins bioethicist Hilary Bok explains,

Cloning causes animals to suffer. Egg donors must have their ovaries artificially stimulated with hormone treatments and their eggs surgically harvested. Given the unusually high rates of late-term miscarriages and high birth weights among clones, the surrogate mothers are at greater risk of dying or suffering serious complications than animals who become pregnant naturally. The clones, themselves, however, suffer the most serious problems: They are much more likely than other animals to be miscarried, have birth defects, develop serious illnesses, and die prematurely.

No pet owner should be willing to allow hundreds of other animals to suffer needlessly just so they can obtain a ‘genetic replica” of an animal they love. Pets, like their owners, are individuals and should be valued for their uniqueness and personality. The loss of a family pet can be traumatic and painful. Animals can provide love and companionship and their effects on their owners should never be mocked or dismissed as a silly, contrived attachment.
But nothing, not even ‘genetic resurrection”, can bring back that which is lost to the finitude of death. Cloning is not the answer; it only leads to more unnecessary suffering and death. Lost pets can’t be replaced, though the love they provide can be. It doesn’t require a team of scientists, thousands of dollars, or a morally specious process. All it takes is a trip to the local animal shelter.



  • gaw

    Here’s the kicker… the genetic “replica” doesn’t even look like the original!
    “Advances in cloning technology are moving at a rapid pace. The long-term effects of cloning, however, still remain to be determined. Furthermore, it is clear that both genetic and non-genetic factors shape an individual so that a clone will never be an exact copy of the donor.”

  • gaw

    Here’s the kicker… the genetic “replica” doesn’t even look like the original!
    “Advances in cloning technology are moving at a rapid pace. The long-term effects of cloning, however, still remain to be determined. Furthermore, it is clear that both genetic and non-genetic factors shape an individual so that a clone will never be an exact copy of the donor.”

  • gaw

    Here’s the kicker… the genetic “replica” doesn’t even look like the original!
    “Advances in cloning technology are moving at a rapid pace. The long-term effects of cloning, however, still remain to be determined. Furthermore, it is clear that both genetic and non-genetic factors shape an individual so that a clone will never be an exact copy of the donor.”

  • gaw

    Here’s the kicker… the genetic “replica” doesn’t even look like the original!
    “Advances in cloning technology are moving at a rapid pace. The long-term effects of cloning, however, still remain to be determined. Furthermore, it is clear that both genetic and non-genetic factors shape an individual so that a clone will never be an exact copy of the donor.”

  • http://lamillinger.typepad.com/ Lee Anne Millinger

    That’s sickening considering how many sweet animals are euthanized because no one has adopted them.

  • http://lamillinger.typepad.com/ Lee Anne Millinger

    That’s sickening considering how many sweet animals are euthanized because no one has adopted them.

  • http://lamillinger.typepad.com Lee Anne Millinger

    That’s sickening considering how many sweet animals are euthanized because no one has adopted them.

  • http://king-of-fools.com/ King of Fools

    GAW got it right. A clone is a genetic copy but they come with a blank slate as far as memory goes.
    It would be interesting to see how many clones have a different temperment than their ‘parent’.

  • http://king-of-fools.com King of Fools

    GAW got it right. A clone is a genetic copy but they come with a blank slate as far as memory goes.
    It would be interesting to see how many clones have a different temperment than their ‘parent’.

  • Mr. Moderate

    If I remember correctly, cloned Calico cats also don’t have the same pattern as the DNA host. Likewise the clone is subject to the high rate of replication errors in the cloning process and has the same problems as other clones with regards to shortened telomeres.

  • Mr. Moderate

    If I remember correctly, cloned Calico cats also don’t have the same pattern as the DNA host. Likewise the clone is subject to the high rate of replication errors in the cloning process and has the same problems as other clones with regards to shortened telomeres.

  • Mr. Moderate

    If I remember correctly, cloned Calico cats also don’t have the same pattern as the DNA host. Likewise the clone is subject to the high rate of replication errors in the cloning process and has the same problems as other clones with regards to shortened telomeres.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com/ Mike

    I cannot believe that you said that America has a libertarian/capitalist society. America is closer to British style socialism than libertarian capitalism.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com/ Mike

    I cannot believe that you said that America has a libertarian/capitalist society. America is closer to British style socialism than libertarian capitalism.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com Mike

    I cannot believe that you said that America has a libertarian/capitalist society. America is closer to British style socialism than libertarian capitalism.

  • dicknbush

    whatever mike,
    british style socialism would mean health care and decriminalization of non-violent drug offenses. it is much closer to libertarian in that it is dog eat dog. yet, we pay billions every year to lock up non-violent drug offenders. more of a police stae than anything.

  • dicknbush

    whatever mike,
    british style socialism would mean health care and decriminalization of non-violent drug offenses. it is much closer to libertarian in that it is dog eat dog. yet, we pay billions every year to lock up non-violent drug offenders. more of a police stae than anything.

  • dicknbush

    whatever mike,
    british style socialism would mean health care and decriminalization of non-violent drug offenses. it is much closer to libertarian in that it is dog eat dog. yet, we pay billions every year to lock up non-violent drug offenders. more of a police stae than anything.

  • dicknbush

    whatever mike,
    british style socialism would mean health care and decriminalization of non-violent drug offenses. it is much closer to libertarian in that it is dog eat dog. yet, we pay billions every year to lock up non-violent drug offenders. more of a police stae than anything.

  • dicknbush

    whatever mike,
    british style socialism would mean health care and decriminalization of non-violent drug offenses. it is much closer to libertarian in that it is dog eat dog. yet, we pay billions every year to lock up non-violent drug offenders. more of a police stae than anything.

  • dicknbush

    whatever mike,
    british style socialism would mean health care and decriminalization of non-violent drug offenses. it is much closer to libertarian in that it is dog eat dog. yet, we pay billions every year to lock up non-violent drug offenders. more of a police stae than anything.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com/ Mike

    Btw I agree with you that this is a stupid, sick and childish response to the death of a pet.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com/ Mike

    Btw I agree with you that this is a stupid, sick and childish response to the death of a pet.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com/ Mike

    Btw I agree with you that this is a stupid, sick and childish response to the death of a pet.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com Mike

    Btw I agree with you that this is a stupid, sick and childish response to the death of a pet.

  • http://christusvictor.blogspot.com/ Josiah

    I was had a conversation with my Mother about cloning where she said that a clone of her would be her, and hence that cloning might hold the key to immortality. Try as I might, I wasn’t able to break her of the view. It was at that point I realized that maybe cloning wasn’t such a good idea.

  • http://christusvictor.blogspot.com Josiah

    I was had a conversation with my Mother about cloning where she said that a clone of her would be her, and hence that cloning might hold the key to immortality. Try as I might, I wasn’t able to break her of the view. It was at that point I realized that maybe cloning wasn’t such a good idea.

  • Steve

    A twin of a kitten isn’t an inherently evil thing, but as noted above the cost and the presence (at least in urban centers) of kittens for adopting would seem to make this a case of poor stewardship, where pets are concerned.
    One might imagine scenarios where medical research might require this.

  • Steve

    A twin of a kitten isn’t an inherently evil thing, but as noted above the cost and the presence (at least in urban centers) of kittens for adopting would seem to make this a case of poor stewardship, where pets are concerned.
    One might imagine scenarios where medical research might require this.

  • Steve

    A twin of a kitten isn’t an inherently evil thing, but as noted above the cost and the presence (at least in urban centers) of kittens for adopting would seem to make this a case of poor stewardship, where pets are concerned.
    One might imagine scenarios where medical research might require this.

  • Ed Jordan

    Don’t you think that cloning pets is a first step toward cloning small children who have died?
    If you lost, say, a three-year-old child in an accident, and cloning was available, wouldn’t it be almost irresistable to try to recreate the child (especially if the child had been an only child)? After only three years, your memories of how you treated the first version of the child would seem pretty fresh (how you spoke to her, played with her, kissed and hugged her). You’re probably living in the same house. The grandparents are still alive — in other words, you might think you could recreate the environment as well as reuse the genes.
    Wouldn’t you be tempted to think you might get the same child?
    As a parent, it’s heart-wrenching to think of the parents’ pain and grief!
    But as a Christian, I see what a rejection of a God-centered worldview such cloning would be. That first child is in Paradise, awaiting his bodily resurrection. To try to resurrect the child ourselves would be wrong even if there were no danger and no suffering involved for the human subject (as you point out there is for animal ones) — because aren’t we saying then that we have no real hope in Jesus Christ, only in our science and ourselves?
    And even without a Biblical promise of life in heaven for our pets, aren’t we expressing some of the same God-denying despair when we try to resurrect beloved animals? Aren’t we saying that what matters in life can be reduced to the mechanical level — that life is essentially meaningless?

  • Ed Jordan

    Don’t you think that cloning pets is a first step toward cloning small children who have died?
    If you lost, say, a three-year-old child in an accident, and cloning was available, wouldn’t it be almost irresistable to try to recreate the child (especially if the child had been an only child)? After only three years, your memories of how you treated the first version of the child would seem pretty fresh (how you spoke to her, played with her, kissed and hugged her). You’re probably living in the same house. The grandparents are still alive — in other words, you might think you could recreate the environment as well as reuse the genes.
    Wouldn’t you be tempted to think you might get the same child?
    As a parent, it’s heart-wrenching to think of the parents’ pain and grief!
    But as a Christian, I see what a rejection of a God-centered worldview such cloning would be. That first child is in Paradise, awaiting his bodily resurrection. To try to resurrect the child ourselves would be wrong even if there were no danger and no suffering involved for the human subject (as you point out there is for animal ones) — because aren’t we saying then that we have no real hope in Jesus Christ, only in our science and ourselves?
    And even without a Biblical promise of life in heaven for our pets, aren’t we expressing some of the same God-denying despair when we try to resurrect beloved animals? Aren’t we saying that what matters in life can be reduced to the mechanical level — that life is essentially meaningless?

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com/ Mike

    Ed,
    You have to wonder about a god that gives a species as violent and sadistic as humanity eternal life, but species which are quite loving and caring when treated right get nothing in the end. I have met plenty of dogs and cats that deserve eternal life more than many of the people I’ve met.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com Mike

    Ed,
    You have to wonder about a god that gives a species as violent and sadistic as humanity eternal life, but species which are quite loving and caring when treated right get nothing in the end. I have met plenty of dogs and cats that deserve eternal life more than many of the people I’ve met.

  • Septeus7

    Quote: I have met plenty of dogs and cats that deserve eternal life more than many of the people I’ve met.
    That is because you haven’t met anyone who deserves eternal life.

  • Septeus7

    Quote: I have met plenty of dogs and cats that deserve eternal life more than many of the people I’ve met.
    That is because you haven’t met anyone who deserves eternal life.

  • Septeus7

    Quote: I have met plenty of dogs and cats that deserve eternal life more than many of the people I’ve met.
    That is because you haven’t met anyone who deserves eternal life.

  • Ed Jordan

    Septeus7,
    That’s right. Nobody deserves it.

  • Ed Jordan

    Septeus7,
    That’s right. Nobody deserves it.

  • Steve

    Ed, you are using the argument of the beard.
    You also misunderstand what cloning is. Cloning isn’t resurrection of any kind. It is artifically inducing the twinning process that occurs naturally.
    You also don’t seem to have read my post with much attention to what I actually said.

  • Steve

    Ed, you are using the argument of the beard.
    You also misunderstand what cloning is. Cloning isn’t resurrection of any kind. It is artifically inducing the twinning process that occurs naturally.
    You also don’t seem to have read my post with much attention to what I actually said.

  • Steve

    Ed, you are using the argument of the beard.
    You also misunderstand what cloning is. Cloning isn’t resurrection of any kind. It is artifically inducing the twinning process that occurs naturally.
    You also don’t seem to have read my post with much attention to what I actually said.

  • Steve

    Ed, you are using the argument of the beard.
    You also misunderstand what cloning is. Cloning isn’t resurrection of any kind. It is artifically inducing the twinning process that occurs naturally.
    You also don’t seem to have read my post with much attention to what I actually said.

  • Steve

    Ed, you are using the argument of the beard.
    You also misunderstand what cloning is. Cloning isn’t resurrection of any kind. It is artifically inducing the twinning process that occurs naturally.
    You also don’t seem to have read my post with much attention to what I actually said.

  • Steve

    Ed, you are using the argument of the beard.
    You also misunderstand what cloning is. Cloning isn’t resurrection of any kind. It is artifically inducing the twinning process that occurs naturally.
    You also don’t seem to have read my post with much attention to what I actually said.

  • Steve

    Ed, you are using the argument of the beard.
    You also misunderstand what cloning is. Cloning isn’t resurrection of any kind. It is artifically inducing the twinning process that occurs naturally.
    You also don’t seem to have read my post with much attention to what I actually said.

  • Steve

    Ed, you are using the argument of the beard.
    You also misunderstand what cloning is. Cloning isn’t resurrection of any kind. It is artifically inducing the twinning process that occurs naturally.
    You also don’t seem to have read my post with much attention to what I actually said.

  • Kevin Walmsley

    I’m telling you who’s behind all this, people–CATS. Smelly, horrible cats. First they get the Egyptians to treat them as gods. Then they convince the Europeans that only THEY can stop the Black Death. Now they’ve got Americans trying to get them eternal life, in addition to the nine they’ve already got.
    Don’t give in!! Send all cats to hell!!

  • Kevin Walmsley

    I’m telling you who’s behind all this, people–CATS. Smelly, horrible cats. First they get the Egyptians to treat them as gods. Then they convince the Europeans that only THEY can stop the Black Death. Now they’ve got Americans trying to get them eternal life, in addition to the nine they’ve already got.
    Don’t give in!! Send all cats to hell!!

  • Kevin Walmsley

    I’m telling you who’s behind all this, people–CATS. Smelly, horrible cats. First they get the Egyptians to treat them as gods. Then they convince the Europeans that only THEY can stop the Black Death. Now they’ve got Americans trying to get them eternal life, in addition to the nine they’ve already got.
    Don’t give in!! Send all cats to hell!!

  • Tom

    I’m pretty sure, as well, that a clone of any cat with a pattern — such as stripes or spots — will likely not look like the original cat. DNA does not encode the exact pattern, but a sort of loose rule for generating the pattern. The exact pattern is affected by minute external conditions in the formative stages.

  • Tom

    I’m pretty sure, as well, that a clone of any cat with a pattern — such as stripes or spots — will likely not look like the original cat. DNA does not encode the exact pattern, but a sort of loose rule for generating the pattern. The exact pattern is affected by minute external conditions in the formative stages.