I believe we’ve all heard about first-ever cloned mammal: Dolly the sheep and the controversy it generated back in the day. Less than a decade later, a Californian company by the name of “Genetic Savings and Clone” was already offering commercial cloning services for peoples’ deceased pets, an extravagant endeavor with a price tag to match. So if you’ve recently lost a beloved pet (mainly a cat or a dog) and have around 50,000$ (per attempt) to spare; this might be the article for you.
Pet cloning is nowadays more readily available and cheaper than ever and naturally, a number of celebrities started taking advantages of those services including Barbara Streisand and her two clones of her late dog Samantha and Simon Cowell who is spending a whopping 180,000£ on pet cloning so he never has to live a day without his Yorkshire terriers by his side.
This unusual procedure basically consists of an embryo being cultivated from the cell of the animal (particularly cells from its mouth and stomach), before being implanted into the surrogate mother’s uterus. Each attempt takes about two months and this process is not fool-proof. It’s actually estimated to be successful about a third of the time, which makes the price tag all the more unsettling. It also comes with some negative side effects which are the main reason some people might consider pet cloning inhumane. According to Alan Beck, an animal ecology professor at Purdue University:
“All cloned animals have shorter life spans and many more health problems than non-cloned animals. Many, many animals are used [in the cloning process]. So you have this big population of unrecognized industry of a dog population that are surgically manipulated and kept in cages, like any kind of commercial or research area, but it’s not inspected and there’s no guarantee they’re well taken care of.”
Another side effect that seems to be the most bothersome to people who go through getting their pets cloned is that the clone, although it’s a carbon copy of the original, is not guaranteed to behave the same way or have the same memories. Which is why a Chinese company, the Sinogene Biotechnology Company, is considering taking this procedure a step further and using artificial intelligence to transfer the memories of a pet to its clone. According to Sinogene’s general manager: “To make the cloned animal share the same memories with the original, the company is considering the use of artificial intelligence or man-machine interface technology to store them or even pass the memories to cloned animals.”
Only time can tell whether or not that is a realistically possible endeavor, but it’s a definite sign that the market for pet clones is set to expand significantly. This is outrageous in my opinion, considering how many people are willing to spend so much money and resources on recreating their dead pets while equally loveable and very much still alive pets waste away in shelters.
This also makes human cloning seem somewhat more plausible, which raises a whole other set of ethical dilemmas that I believe humanity is not ready to face yet.