Compassion is against the cloning of animals for food. Compassion has been campaigning in the EU and in the UK against cloning for a number of years.
The aim of cloning farm animals is to produce replicas of the animals with the highest economic value, for example the fastest-growing pigs or the highest-yielding dairy cows. However the process of cloning itself causes animal suffering and the animals with the highest economic value are prone to developing severe health problems – pushed to their physical limits, they are condemned to a lifetime of suffering.
The case against cloning
The Cloning = Cruelty campaign highlights the intrinsic animal welfare issues of selective breeding in animals for food – i.e. meat and dairy. Research also shows that many cloned farm animals are born with deformed organs and live short and miserable lives.
Animals involved in the cloning process suffer
The cloning of farm animals can involve great suffering. A cloned embryo has to be implanted into a surrogate mother who carries it to birth. Cloned embryos tend to be large and can result in painful births that are often carried out by Caesarean section. Many clones die during pregnancy or birth. Of those that survive, a significant proportion die in the early days and weeks of life from problems such as heart, liver and kidney failure.
High yield farm animals encounter serious welfare problems
The serious health and welfare problems from the over-zealous use of more traditional selective breeding techniques are now well recognised. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), for example, sees genetic selection for high milk yield as “the major factor causing poor welfare” in dairy cows. Similarly, pigs bred for overly rapid growth often suffer leg, heart and lung disorders. In other words, the animals are being pushed to their physical limits and are often breaking down as a result. They are genetically selected to suffer.
The ethics of cloning are in question
The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (who also advise the European Commission) ‘sees no convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring’.
The political situation
In 2008, the European Parliament voted for a ban on the sale of meat and milk from clones and their offspring (read more here). However, this does not mean an end to the threat of cloning animals for food. A clear law to ban the sale of meat and dairy from cloned animals or their offspring is yet to be passed in the EU.
Discussions between the Parliament, the Commission and the Council of Ministers on the Novel Foods Regulation (which will cover the issue of cloning) broke down in March 2011. The Parliament wanted to include a ban on the import or sale of the offspring of clones, which was unacceptable to the Commission and the majority of the ministers.
The Commission is preparing new legislation for 2013 on cloning animals for food and their use in the EU. The Commission has also commissioned a study to provide policy recommendations regarding the development & commercialisation of GM animals in EU.
Attack of the Clones?
In August 2010, cloning hit the European headlines when it emerged that meat from the offspring of cloned animals had been discovered in the UK food chain. Compassion’s campaign urged the UK government to call for an EU ban on the practice of cloning animals for food.
In just 2 days, over 7,000 signatures were gathered and in August 2010, Compassion marched 40 clones of David Cameron to deliver the petition to their clone, the British Prime Minister.