Animal cloning is the process that creates a new embryo by taking the adult cells of the “parent” to create a duplicate. It is an option that is available in nature when we look at the differences between the different forms of reproduction as well. When evaluating the pros and cons of this subject, it is the artificial processes which come under examination more than any natural method.
When we have access to animal cloning technologies, then there are several different scientific outcomes which become possible. Genetics, reproductive health, and cellular therapeutics are all common points of focus in this field. It is an idea that goes back to the 1930s when scientists like Hans Spemann first wondered what might happen if the nucleus of one cell was swapped out for another to grow an embryo.
After efforts to clone a frog in the 1950s, the first real success of animal cloning occurred with Dolly. She was a sheep who lived a fairly normal and happy life after a successful procedure to clone her from her mother. Following the examples led by that team, scientists have now found ways to clone deer, dogs, cats, rodents, and livestock.
As progress continues to occur within this scientific field, now is an essential time to start review the pros and cons of animal cloning.
List of the Most Important Animal Cloning Pros
1. Cloning animals allows a scientist to focus on trait development.
We already use reproductive influences to enhance specific genetic traits in plants and animals to better serve our needs or adapt to their environment. This selective process dates back more than 1,000 years through documentation and could be three millennia older than that. Animal cloning is a process which allows us to focus on the genetic footprint that creates the specific traits we want, taking this advantage to the next level.
Animal cloning could product more food items for us, encourage a longer lifespan, improve reproductive rates, lower the cost of access, and make our lives easier in a number of different ways.
2. We can clone animals to replace ones that we have lost.
Many of the pros and cons of animal cloning look at the advantage of having a beloved pet cloned to avoid issues with grief and loss. It is imperative that we take this benefit a step further to address other forms of loss, such as a farmer losing cattle, a horse breeder losing a prize Thoroughbred, and similar situations that occur outside of domestication.
Although the expense of cloning an animal could be more than $50,000 and unfeasible from a commercial production standpoint today, future technologies could make this work a lot cheaper.
3. The cloned animals are still distinctive individuals.
When we start cloning animals, the outcome does not produce an individual with a duplicate personality, memories, or purpose in life. There are environmental influences that can shape the personality and preferences of an animal as well, just as they do for us. Even though the physical similarities make it seem like two animals would be the same, there is no scientific evidence that suggests there are engrams for memories or a “soul” that transfer with the genetic information.
Cloned animals might share their DNA, but they do not share the same experiences in life. That is why each one becomes a unique creature in their own right – even if their creation was due to an artificial intervention.
4. It gives us an opportunity to introduce specific outcomes to the animal world.
Cloning animals gives us the option to advance the evolutionary cycle of a species by hundreds, if not thousands, of years in a safe laboratory setting. Scientists can introduce beneficial traits to different animals by including specific cells, proteins, or unique physical profiles that encourage development in foundational ways.
Antithrombin is one of the best examples of the successes that we have experienced in recent years in the study of animal cloning. Goats produce this protein that work to break down human blood clots, thereby reducing the threat of a cardiovascular event. The only problem is that these animals don’t produce it naturally. By creating a process which makes more of this medicine, we can produce more of it through cloning to ensure our supplies are always adequate.
5. We have an opportunity to resurrect extinct life through animal cloning.
Despite our best efforts to maintain animal species on our planet, there are more that go extinct every year. When we’re talking about resurrecting life that once lived here, we’re not looking at a Jurassic Park scenario where dangerous dinosaurs come back to life. Scientists want to use animal cloning technologies to save species like the Alagoas Foliage-gleaner, the Cryptic Treehunter, or the Po’ouli, all of which were declared extinct in 2018.
Even the Spix’s Macaw, which came to great fame because of the 2011 movie Rio, was unable to survive extinction in the wild in 2018 because of deforestation, trapping, and the creation of a dam in their natural habitat. Now less than 100 currently live in captivity. Animal cloning could rectify that situation.
6. Cloned animals are safe to eat according to current information.
Rulings on the safety of cloned animals for food date back to 2008 in the United States. That was when the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) declared that livestock animals were permitted for human consumption even if they were artificially reproduced. Cattle, swine, and goats were included with this ruling.
By making this declaration, additional avenues into cloning research become possible because food producers can direct money toward the research and development process as well. That means we could create more animal proteins at a cheaper cost while still improving the overall human nutrition profile.
7. Animal cloning allows us to treat illness and disease.
There are some shocking animal diseases that could threaten human existence on our planet one day. The impact of illness on a species can lead it toward extinction quickly. The BBC notes that there are 10 problematic threats that could wipe out everything and everyone in less than a year.
- Ebola was killed about 5,000 critically endangered gorillas in the 1990s.
- Chytrid is a deadly fungus which has driven over 200 different species into decline.
- West Nile Encephalitis impacts birds and humans, and it is spread by mosquitoes.
- Anthrax is more than a bioterrorism weapon, as a 2004 outbreak in Zimbabwe killed over 90% of the wild herbivore population.
- Distemper is a canine virus that is similar to the measles and can impact carnivores.
8. It could solve problems with our future food supply.
There are an estimated 10 billion people who will live on this planet around the year 2050. Our current farming and food production practices might be unable to manage the hunger demands that such a large population would require. If given another century, there could be over 20 billion people living here.
Animal cloning gives us an option to provide food to those in need because we could mass-produce needed dietary proteins. This scientific approach could take some pressure off of our croplands, improve the quality of what we consume, and preserve life even during times when adverse weather conditions would normally restrict access.
9. Animal cloning has created several medical breakthroughs for humans.
When we start learning how to clone animals successfully without multiple failures per attempt, then the processes can transfer to other areas of science. We could begin to replicate organs, tendons, and other needed body parts by cloning them. Scientists could research the human genome to clone genetic information that could reduce cancer, diabetes, and other problematic diseases.
It has already helped us to know more of how stem cells function and can work with adult-based donations instead of focusing only on the embryonic lines that are sometimes controversial.
List of the Most Important Animal Cloning Cons
1. Animal cloning is the worst possible reproductive process to use in science today.
The success rate of cloning makes it the least reliable method to use for animal reproduction right now. Even though we have gone beyond the hundreds of failed attempts to create one viable embryo as scientists encountered with Dolly the Sheep, there are still numerous genetic issues to solve. If you were to clone an excellent milk-producing Holstein for your farm, then there would be a 1 in 4 chance that the animal would suffer from edema.
Animal cloning also creates a unique risk in the fact that it encourages larger-than-normal growth rates in some species during fetal development. This issue can also place the life of the mother at risk if the process occurs outside of the laboratory setting. The last 20 years have seen multiple improvements in this area, but we still have a long way to go.
2. The success rates from perfect processes are still surprisingly low.
Scientists are using a perfected method of animal cloning that does produce results, but it often takes repetitive efforts to achieve the desired outcome. Even under the best of conditions, only 5 out of every 100 attempts to clone an animal is successful. Many of the offspring that are born alive from this process encounter severe health problems from birth, requiring their euthanizing to prevent suffering. There are increases to the rates of birth defects, disease exposure, and disability development which occur as well.
When there is a success story like Dolly the Sheep, that outcome seems to be the exception more than the rule at the moment.
3. The cost to clone an animal today is exceptionally expensive.
The current cost of cloning, when applied to livestock growth, is about $20,000 per animal. If you wish to clone a prizewinning Thoroughbred, then the initial price is over $150,000 – and that is for each attempt.
You could ask someone to clone your feline for you if you have $25,000 to invest. Cloning dog will cost you twice that much. It took several million dollars to clone Dolly the Sheep. The experimental community has helped to bring cloning toward mainstream culture ever so slowly. The actual implementation of this technology is still available to a select few.
4. Embryo destruction always occurs with modern cloning processes.
When scientists were working to clone Dolly the Sheep, they were able to create more than 275 viable embryos that they could implant for development. Despite the high rate of creation, only a baker’s dozen of pregnancies came about from their efforts. There was only one successful birth out of that as well, which is where we consider the act of cloning as success.
The reality of animal cloning is that less than 1 in 5 somatic cell nuclear transfers will ever become an embryo in the first place. About 50% of these embryos receive a successful implantation procedure. Out of the entire series of implantation efforts, between 1-3 animals avoid issues of miscarriage. Half of the successful births die within 30 days. That’s why the experience that researchers had with Dolly was such a unique experience.
5. It increases the risk of an abnormal pregnancy for the mother.
Almost half of the pregnancies which artificial cloning can produce will terminate for some reason during the second or third trimester. It is a rate that is between 4-6 times higher than what most species encounter, placing an additional risk on the life of the mother to prove this process is usable.
There are problems with birth defects, dystocia, and delivery that can cause problems with the life of the mother as well. It is more likely that the fetus and the mother will die during the developmental process than it is for a successful birth to occur because of animal cloning.
6. Stem cells for cloning and cancer cells in animals tend to develop in the same way.
Humans look at the potential of stem cells as a way to treat numerous diseases, including cancer. The way that stem cells develop through the cloning process is similar to the way that cancer cells grow, which means both could create more indefinitely to create problems. Research indicates that after a certain number of division cycles, there is an ever-increasing risk of mutation that can include the formation of cancer.
There are other unintended consequences of animal cloning that we might encounter one day because of this disadvantage. If we were to consume animal proteins which encountered this issue, would the problem then transfer over to a human disease issue?
7. There are concerns that cloning animals could lead us to start cloning humans.
If we can begin to create animal clones with regularity and no threat to the embryo or fetus, then there are some concerns in the scientific community that these processes could lead to human cloning work in the future. The issue with this process is that there is an ethical concern as to the reasons why clones might be made in the first place. Although some families would use this process to have children of their own that they could not have otherwise, some people might invest in this technology to harvest embryonic stem cells that match with their current physical profile.
There are many questions that need answers with this disadvantage, and not everyone is ready to talk about them because we’re all unsure of what the future world would be like.
8. It may not be safe to introduce extinct species back into their habitat.
If we were to use animal cloning to manage the extinction of species within the past 12-24 months, then this disadvantage would not likely apply. When discussing the return of the wooly mammoth, the dodo bird, or even some dinosaurs, then there is a very real risk to the natural habitats that exist. The planet continues to evolve even after a species goes extinct. Bringing that animal back would disrupt everything there, which could even impact how we can go about our daily lives.
9. Most cloned animals could be sterile.
The cloning process takes an adult cell to create a duplicate in a new life. What researchers are finding is that the older animals which are born through cloning may be unable to reproduce themselves. The genetic information begins to decay with each subsequent generation as well, which means the clone of a clone would have a lower rate of survival success. This disadvantage may be due to the fact that most cloned animals do not survive long enough to bear their young, but it is still an issue that must be brought under consideration.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Animal Cloning
The issue with animal cloning is that we are still in the early stages of scientific development, even as we approach more than a century of brainstorming, experimentation, and success in this field. We must carefully evaluate the reproductive processes of each animal to ensure that its offspring can live a happy and fulfilling life.
This technology is quite inefficient right now, which creates higher rates of death, more distress during each pregnancy, and a lot of wasted money. Unless we are willing to continue researching this process, we will never be able to improve upon the success rates that we see today.
The pros and cons of animal cloning suggest that the rewards would outweigh the negatives if enough research and development occurs. Because that work would entail extensive embryo loss, it is also understandable as to why some people might be against such a practice.
Natalie Regoli is our editor-in-chief. The goal of ConnectUs is to publish compelling content that addresses some of the biggest issues the world faces. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.