We Need To Talk About Cloning
On Sunday, Barbra Streisand took to the stage at the 2019 Oscars to introduce best picture nominee BlacKkKlansman, and gave an impassioned speech about the film, its director Spike Lee and race relations.
The whole world listened.
When Barbra Streisand says something, the world, usually, takes notice.
But not always, it seems.
Speaking to Variety one year ago today, Streisand had dropped a bombshell she revealed that her two Coton de Tulear puppies, named Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett, were clones of her dog Samantha, who had died earlier in 2018. The procedure, carried out by ViaGen Pets, a Texas-based pet-cloning company, cost Streisand $50,000.
To repeat. Barbra Streisand. Dogs. Clones.
Though she faced a brief backlash at the time, quiet why, a year on, this is not something we are all talking about is a mystery.
Ever since a sheep called Dolly was cloned in 1996, many people have questioned the ethics of the procedure, nervously speculating that it would be a matter of time before a human was cloned sometime in the future. In the 23 intervening years that, mercifully, hasn’t happened.
But crucially, we are now 23 years closer to that nightmarish outcome.
Since Dolly was brought into this world, cats, horses, camels and monkeys, to name just a few species, have been cloned. Many if not all of these developments have had scientific reasoning behind them, such as generating tissue to treat diseases. The technology can also be used to clone endangered and, in theory, extinct, animals.
Streisand's dog-cloning, however, flirts with the boundaries of ethics. This was the recreation of a beloved pet. The slippery slope ahead suddenly is not too difficult to see.
While animal rights activists have long opposed a process which can inflict severe pain on the creatures involved, attitudes in the wider media remain strangely passive. All the time however, the cloning industry is involved in a mission creep.
Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett may have grabbed attention because of their owner’s fame, but in the US, South Korea and other countries, cloning of dogs has become common place.
It is not beyond imagination that should cloning technology became even more mainstream or fall into the hands of unscrupulous entities or individuals, it could be open to wide-scale abuse, with, at best, unethical and at worst, disastrous, consequences.
Harvesting organs? Cloned armies? Cloned relatives or family members? Dinosaurs?
For now, these scenarios remain firmly in the domain of fiction.
But for how long? And is anybody listening?