Groups express misgivings about cloning of pets

Groups express misgivings about cloning of pets
Three cloned puppies in an incubator at a facility in Tianjin.
PHOTO: AFP/Boyalife Group

PETALING JAYA - A British couple's bid to clone their recently deceased pet has raised concerns about the ethical principles of the procedure, both abroad and domestic.

Laura Jacques, 29, a dog walker, and 43-year-old stone mason Richard Remde, from Yorkshire, are currently in South Korea awaiting the birth of two puppies, cloned from the DNA of their deceased Boxer, Dylan. The process cost the couple US$100,000 (RM428,410 or S$140,050).

In a telephone interview, Jacques acknowledged the negative feedback that has cropped up and said that she and her partner proceeded with the cloning fully aware of the risks, and after much discussion.

"I don't think anyone can understand unless they are in our position, especially those who don't own a dog or share a love for that dog like I had. We always knew it was a controversial subject and we totally understand that. But if they knew the full story, they would probably see things from my point of view," explained Jacques.

She added that all she wanted was to "have a little bit of Dylan to hold on to" and viewed the incoming clones as its puppies.

Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better project manager Melinda Joy Gomez said although some might frown on the practice of cloning animals, she perfectly understood why there were people who wanted to clone their pets.

"The bond between pet owners and their pets, especially dogs, are very deep. It is an emotional attachment that is very difficult to explain.

"When people who have this bond and attachment lose their pets, their world comes crashing down and they want their pets back into their lives," said Melinda.

And for these people, she said, a new pet would not be of help, as they would want the same pet with the same looks and characteristics.

"However, it is wrong if cloning is for commercial purposes such as breeders cloning to maintain champion line," said Gomez.

The cloning of Dylan is overseen by scientists from the Seoul-based Sooam Biotech Research Found­ation, including the foundation's chief technology officer Dr Hwang Woo-suk, who in 2005 was found to have falsified his research into human stem cell cloning.

The foundation claimed to have so far successfully cloned close to 700 animals for various purposes.

Green Living Special Interest Group coordinator Wong Ee Lynn has also expressed concern over the cloning of pets and other animals, especially for commercial purposes.

She said cloning should not be allowed in the country as the focus should be on preserving natural habitats and conserving existing species.

"If we do not have sufficient habitats, what will happen to the cloned animals. Should we put them in zoos and farms?" she asked.

She also noted that the cloning of wildlife for wildlife trade would open up the floodgates for illegal trafficking and consumption.

"What message would cloning animals such as tigers, for the wildlife parts market send out to the public?" she added.

Animal lover Teng Huah Sheng, 19, who is currently pursuing a diploma in animal health and production at the Universiti Putra Malaysia Bintulu campus, said that there were only a few circumstances when he would condone cloning, like the preservation of an endangered species, but never out of sentimental value.

"I think it's unethical.

"It is wrong to try and replace something with the 'same exact thing'.

"Furthermore, a cloned version is rarely the same thing especially when it comes to behaviour as that trait is usually picked up and learned," said Teng.

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