The hidden cost of cloning is other dogs – is it worth it?
Associate Professor Megan Munsie (Deputy Director of Centre for Stem Cell Systems and Head of Engagement, Ethics and Policy Program at Stem Cells Australia) has been featured as a leading expert in stem cells and ethics, in a new Pursuit article titled What are we doing to our dogs?
In the search for perfection in our pets, selective breeding and intensive breeding practices are prevalent. Such practises have an unintended effect on the health and wellbeing of man's best friend through reducing genetic variation and increasing the risk of disease and disability.
The motion of cloning our favourite pets has also entered mainstream media, after Barbara Streisand cloned her dog in 2017.
Cloning involves taking an egg from a donor, removing the genetic material from the egg – the donor’s chromosomes – and replacing them with the nucleus and genetic material from a cell taken from the individual being cloned.
Current cloning technologies require hundreds of donor eggs and many surrogate dogs to achieve the birth of a healthy clone.
Associate Professor Megan Munsie explores the ethical implications of cloning.
“The obvious ethical problem with cloning in that huge resources are put into producing cloned dogs, when so many dogs are being abandoned in shelters every day” observed Associate Professor Megan Munsie.
“But there is also a hidden cost. Cloning is terribly inefficient, and the cost is other dogs”
With a price tag of A$50,000-A$100,000, cloning your dog or other pet will be prohibitively expensive for most people. People may also be deterred by the disappointment that the clone isn't exactly the same as their original pet.
It's likely that for those who are able to pay the money, they are likely to accept and love their clone, even if it isn't identical, because it preserves a link to the pet they've lost.”
For now, treasuring the memory of a much-loved pet, and maybe forming new memories with a new pet is likely to remain the norm.
Associate Professor Munsie and Professor Balding, Associate Professor Mansfield discussed these issues around dog breeding and cloning as part of the Science Gallery Melbourne’s Perfection exhibition that runs until 3 November 2018.
Associate Professor Munsie spoke to David Astle on ABC Radio Melbourne (774 AM) on Monday 8 October at 9pm.
Catch up on the broadcast here (start player at 2:07:20 for Associate Professor Munsie's appearance).
A/ Prof Megan Munsie