Put the Kibosh on Cat Cloning

By Kathy Guillermo

On the same day that experimenters at Texas A&M university announced they had
cloned a kitten, animal shelters across the country destroyed more than 6,000
cats. It's estimated that an equal number of cats died on the streets that
day, crushed beneath cars, killed by other animals or taken out by diseases
that make their final hours a nightmare of pain.

By the end of this year, more than four million cats will die for want of a
family to love them.

So I wonder, when Texas businessman John Sperling was writing out the check
to university experimenters, did he consider how that money might have helped
cats already on this earth? Rather than creating more felines, his $3.7
million could have done a lot for cats so desperately in need of help.

The facts reveal that the motive for the cloning has more to do with seeking
profits and headlines than warming the heart. Sperling and a business partner
have created a company, Genetics Savings & Clone, which will own the patents
on cloning procedures developed at the university. The company has already
had more than 10,000 inquiries about cloning companion animals and a company
spokesperson says that the price tag for cloning will be in the "low six

If Sperling does launch into the pet cloning business, he should be up front
with his clients. Cloning is a very uncertain science. The journal "Science"
reported last year that most cloned animals have abnormalities that aren't
initially apparent.

The most famous clone, Dolly the sheep, has arthritis even though she's only
six years old. Or is she? Her creators admit they are uncertain about how old
Dolly really is. They aren't sure if they should measure her age by her years
on earth because she appears to be the age of her "mother's" cells.

For every animal successfully cloned, it's estimated that 98 animals die.
This is important. No matter how cute "CC" the cloned kitty is, she is a
product of experimentation. The animals used are caged, manipulated and seen
as tools to achieve a high-profile and lucrative end. What will happen to her
surrogate mother? Will she go to a good home now or will she spend her
remaining years as an imprisoned, unwilling surrogate? How many other
surrogates failed the test and remain in the laboratory to be used again or
killed? How many deformed kittens died before or soon after birth?

Though I object to all laboratory studies on animals because they cause such
immense suffering to our fellow beings, this is not animal experimentation
that even pretends to save human or animal lives. Why is CC considered
valuable while the cats used to create her are expendable?

It is understandable that some people fantasize about replicating an adored
dog or cat. Cloning, however, cannot replicate a particular animal. If it's
successful, cloning can only replicate genetic material-and even this is
uncertain. Just as fraternal twins are different people, so too, will cloned
animals develop different personalities. As one of the cloning experimenters
admitted, they cannot "resurrect" animals.

Anyone thinking about cloning a beloved animal should go immediately to a
local shelter or rescue group. You may not get a duplicate, but there are so
many dogs and cats just waiting to love and be loved. John Sperling and Texas
A&M experimenters may not care about these animals, but the rest of us can.

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