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The Cloning Debate: Barbra Streisand’s Recent Doggy Controversy

Edited by: Jina Aryaan

 

In a recent interview with Variety magazine, Barbra Streisand revealed something that has lately caused some controversy. Two of her dogs, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett, were cloned from her dog, Samantha, a 14-year-old Coton du Tulear. Samantha recently passed in 2017. In another interview, Streisand revealed that before Samantha’s death, she had cells taken from Samantha’s mouth and stomach.

Following the publication of the interview, Streisand received a lot of negative criticism about her actions. Online citizens were quick to criticize Streisand for cloning her dogs while she could have easily adopted from numerous animal shelters and rescue groups, most of which have a surplus of dogs and pets. In addition, cloning Samantha cost an exorbitant amount of money. While unclear which company Streisand used to clone Samantha, one company, Sooam Biotech charges about $100,000 to attempt the process. A Texas based company, ViaGen Pets, charges $50,000 for the cloning process and an additional $1,600 for cell preservation. The hefty fee for this process is money people argue could have been donated or gone to help homeless dogs. Others have argued for the ethics of cloning, believing that cloning is morally wrong. Should we clone dogs just because we can?

But what does dog cloning entail? Many people remember Dolly the Sheep in 1996. To put it simply, dog cloning involves extracting cells from the donor dog and merging them with egg cells from numerous other donor dogs in a lab setting. Lab technicians then infuse chemicals and subject the merged cells to electric shocks in order to stimulate cell division. Female dogs serving as surrogates are then impregnated with the resulting embryos.

However, a key consideration to remember about cloning is that the clone of the original subject (or the donor) is not the original. Many people appear to forget that the cloning process is purely genetic, and thus scientific. While the clone might look the same, the way it acts and behave will likely differ. The concept is similar to having identical twins: genetically identical, but ultimately different. Streisand has also hinted that she might regret her decision – while her new puppies may look like Samantha, they do not have her personality. “I’m waiting for them to get older so I can see if they have her brown eyes and her seriousness,” she revealed in an interview.

On one level, the desire to have a recently deceased dog cloned is understandable. The main reason why dog owners may choose to have their dogs cloned is simply that they want their dogs back. Grieving, wealthy dog owners unused to being told “no” may not realize how selfish this act is, or may not yet realize that they are only producing a genetic twin of their deceased pet, not necessarily bringing them back. Companies are also monopolizing on the huge market of dog cloning with hefty fees, feeding on grieving, wealthy dog owners. Organizations are often not forthcoming about the cloning process and reluctant to share information about when things go wrong.

In consideration of whether or not you should clone your dog, the answer is a resounding no. Cloning costs are excessive, and cloning your dog does not bring your friend back. In a simple, less morbid analogy, imagine asking your friend to visit you in a week’s time from halfway across the country. However, a week later at the airport, you find that she has sent her twin to visit you instead of her. Would this essentially be spending time with your friend because she and her twin are genetically similar? Similarly, if your friend passed, would it be fair to claim that replacing her with her twin sister is essentially to getting your friend back? The answer to both of these scenarios is no. Sure, the two are genetically identical, but their personalities, experiences, and mannerisms will ultimately differ. Conflating the two or replacing one with the other is not the same as having two of the same thing.

Negative moral and social implications aside, the grieving process for your deceased friend might be long, but cloning your dog to cope might ultimately leave you disappointed. Unfortunately, cloning remains a complicated moral subject, and requires further research in order to fully be understood. On both personal and social levels, perhaps it’s best to decide not to clone your dog for now. 

 

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Joy Jiang

U Toronto

Joy Jiang is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto double majoring in Criminology and Political Science, and minoring in English. When not lamenting in bed about the schoolwork she has yet to do, she can be found watching Netflix and home renovation television.
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