Why are animals cloned?
Cloning techniques are used to try and produce exact 'copies' of a particular animal. The use of cloning technology is often justified by statements that the research could lead to cheaper methods of producing medical treatments and food products. Cloning techniques have also been, or are being used, to create 'copies' of:
- pet dogs and cats
- particular farm animals (e.g. prizewinning bulls)
- successful sport horses (e.g. used in show jumping)
- bulls used in bullfighting
- endangered or even extinct species (e.g. woolly mammoths).
We believe there is no justification for cloning animals for such trivial purposes.
How are animals cloned?
The cloning process usually involves removing genetic information, known as DNA, from a cell taken from one animal and placing this into an egg cell from another animal. This must be an unfertilised egg that has had its own DNA removed. This egg is then artificially stimulated to start developing into an embryo and placed into a surrogate mother animal. See our simple graphic: Cloning animals (PDF 316KB)
- The first cloned mammal successfully produced using a cell taken from another animal was 'Dolly the sheep' - born in 1996.
- The growing list of species to have been cloned now includes mice, pigs, goats, dogs, cats, horses, mules and fish.
- Fewer than five per cent of cloned embryos usually survive to birth.
- Where cloned animals are born alive, they often have breathing problems, tumours, liver defects or other abnormalities, and have a reduced lifespan.
What we think
Cloning is a serious concern for the RSPCA. The process involves scientific procedures that can cause pain, suffering and distress,with little consideration for ethics or animal welfare. Cloning never creates a true copy of the original animal; all animals are individuals with their own personalities. We would like people considering cloning their beloved companions to adopt an animal who needs a home instead.
- Read our submission to the European Food Safety Authority (on behalf of Eurogroup for Animals): The impact of cloning on animal welfare (2008) (PDF 50.4KB).
- See our submission to the UK Food Standards Agency: Cloning animals for food (2008) (PDF 108KB).