Cloning pets is weird and probably unethical

This profitable and experimental business is not going to stop any time soon

Some pet owners pay a hefty price to clone their deceased pets. (File photo)

Some pet owners pay a hefty price to clone their deceased pets. (File photo)

There are some pet owners willing to pay top dollar to clone their deceased pets. The popularity and existence of cloning is bizarre and incredibly unsettling, especially given the absurd amount of money involved and the animal rights issues it pulls into question.

Cloning has remained controversial among the international community through ethical debates for its commercial use. Several cloning companies have already taken root in different countries, from the United States to South Korea, to profit from this polarizing science.

The way cloning works is that scientists take cells from a pet tissue sample, then use an enzyme solution to extract DNA from those cells. The lab subsequently acquires the nucleus from the sample’s cells to replace the original nucleus of a donor animal’s unfertilized egg. From there, the altered egg is developed into an embryo, then placed inside a surrogate until its birth. 

The cloning process is anything but perfect, and can result in failed pregnancies and embryos that produce a dangerous dependency on surrogates and donors. Experts have outlined that the clone is still a different animal with none of the personality or history the original pet once had with the owner. 

The money involved in these procedures is as startling as the diverse parties attracted to the prospect of having or creating a cloned pet. The Washington Post covered pet owner Kelly Anderson’s story, revealing that she spent $25,000 in 2017 to clone her late cat, Chai. 

The American cloning firm ViaGen charges their clientele $35,000 to clone cats, $50,000 to clone dogs, and $1,600 if they want to preserve pet cells for future cloning.

Hollywood stars also took to the pet cloning trend, such as when celebrity couple Diane Von Furstenberg and Barry Diller from the fashion world cloned their dog Shannon into two puppies in 2016 for a whopping $100,000.

A CBC article explained that the motive behind cloning late pets was not only due to emotional attachment, but also the preference to have a more exceptional animal. 

Still, bioethicist and pet owner Jessica Pierce, who spoke with CBC in 2018, said that while cloning may replace a pet, it shouldn’t be used to sidestep the grief of losing the original.

What makes cloning such a disturbing topic for some is its potential impact on animal rights. A prominent case of this was back in 2005 when South Korea created Snuppy, an Afghan hound puppy who was the first dog cloned with a ten-year lifespan. 

The dark side of this breakthrough was that out of the 1,000 embryos implanted into 123 surrogates, Snuppy was one of only two dogs who survived the cloning process, and he lived the longest. He outlived the other clone, his “twin” so-to-speak, who sadly perished due to pneumonia. 

You don’t need to do the math to imagine how horrible it is that so many dogs had to die in the name of carrying out this process. The staggering results of Snuppy’s case demonstrate the extremes corporations can go to when using science and technology to satisfy their agendas.

What worsens the health and safety of cloned pets are the by-products of the cloning process, namely the imperfect physical matches to the original specimen. A 2015 report detailed how a cloned puppy died due to its liver and gallbladder being compromised at birth. 

This grim reality combined with the apparent lack of government oversight for pet cloning companies, makes it more unnerving that people are still investing their dollars into this practice. 

Regardless of anyone’s take on it, cloning is a technology that exists now, and its ethical controversies are not going away anytime soon.