Since the birth of Dolly the sheep, thousands of animals have been cloned worldwide. As yet, none have openly entered the European market, but this might be about to change if MEPs vote against legislation intended to keep the EU a no-clone zone.
In a matter of days, MEPs will vote on the future of cloning in the EU. There’s already a moratorium on this DNA-meddling practice in the EU’s 28 member states, so the upcoming vote will decide on plans backed by the Environment and Agriculture committees that suggest the temporary ban should be made permanent and extended to include the descendants of clones and clone-derived meat and dairy products.
Compassion stands firmly against cloning and has been lobbying hard to prevent this Frankenstein-like practice, and its by-products, from infiltrating Europe.
The idea of selective breeding is nothing new. For thousands of years, farmers have used animals that have shown preferable characteristics as breeding stock, whether that be climatic resilience or a suitability to certain landscapes. This has already been taken to unhealthy extremes with the rise of factory farming, which seeks to maximise productivity above all else.
But cloning takes intensive farming even further, treating farm animals as the ultimate commodity and manipulating them at a cellular level in order to prioritise their productive characteristics. But ignoring the serious welfare issues experienced by high-yielding and fast-growing breeds, and then exacerbating them through cloning, could be a very dangerous move.
The dangers of playing God
There are horrendous health and welfare problems for the cloned animals who make it to birth and for the surrogate mothers who carry them.
It is reported that, shockingly, only 1 in 7 cloned cattle embryos and 1 in 16 pig embryos are born alive. Many of those that do make it to birth die in the early stages of life, and up to 1 in 4 cloned calves and piglets, and half of cloned lambs, die before weaning. Furthermore, if cloned animals are bred, extreme production traits and associated health problems are likely to be compounded down through the generations.
But that’s not all. This rigorous selection and replication process stores up all kinds of other problems for the future of food and farming, including a reduced genetic pool for future generations of livestock and a significant threat to food security (since farmers would become dependent on patented technologies), not to mention a whole host of unknown implications for food safety.
In short, it would be a catastrophe if EU farming took this direction. In the words of the French MEP José Bové: "It would be totally irresponsible to ignore these [dangers] and continue with the attitude of blind faith in competitiveness and patent-based inventions as the only solutions for adapting to farming’s future challenges.”
A vital vote
The political process for deciding whether European farming should ban cloned animals, their embryos and semen, as well as products from cloned animals, is likely to be a long one, with many European authorities keen to have their say. Compassion has already been lobbying the European Commission and key European committees, leading to significant improvements in the proposed legislation.
But we still need your help. If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to write to your MEP to ask them to put morals before money, support higher-welfare farming and vote no to cloning.
If they do this, they will not only be voicing the feelings of Europeans everywhere – most EU citizens are uncomfortable with the idea of cloning and eating products from cloned animals – but they will be upholding the long-cherished European ideals of justice, equality and fairness. Let’s just hope they do when the time comes to vote.
If you feel strongly that cloning, as well as the offspring of clones and clone-derived products, should be banned in Europe, let your MEP know today.