Is cloning our pets a slippery slope to human cloning? No, not any more than allowing legal adoptions will cause women to sell their babies for money. The slippery slope argument states that if there is an exception made to a rule, then the rule itself is no longer valid. This fallacy in logic discounts the ability of humans to maintain morality in a world filled with shades of grey.
Cloning has been around for longer than most people think. Hans Dreisch experimented with sea urchins in the late 1800's and was able to prove that genetic material is not lost in division of the cell. In 1951, an experiment on frog embryos was a success when nucleus containing the genetic material from one cell was removed placed in another cell. This process is known as nuclear transplant and is the basis for cloning today.
Cloning evokes images from popular culture and has been featured in movies such as The Boys from Brazil, Jurassic Park, and The Sixth Day. As the science progresses and we gain more knowledge of cloning, will it evolve to the level of human cloning? The famous cloned sheep, Dolly, was the result of 276 tries of reproductive cloning and was the first in a string of successes in cloning technology. Several different species have been cloned, giving rise to processes that can clone our beloved pets once they have passed on.
Pet cloning began when an American billionaire wanted to clone his dog, and this project produced the first cloned cat in 2001. Dogs proved to be more difficult, but not impossible with the first dog clone being born in 2005. However, even with advances in the ability to produce clones, the survival rate is poor and their health issues, numerous.
Some clones have already found their way to our homes, not as guests but as food. Cloning pets is now offered for a hefty price, and for those who cannot let go of a beloved animal, feel it is worth the price. This leave many wondering that if we clone our pets, will we begin to clone our children, our parents, or our best friend in an effort to preserve that relationship.
This concern is valid; however, the root of our fears lies in the belief that life is sacred and human intervention should not be allowed into the territory of procreation. The false belief that we can clone the person, complete with personality is still a fear in some minds as it challenges their beliefs that each human being possesses a soul. Even for those who do not believe that a soul exists, there are fears that clones will be created, resulting in the ultimate disappointment when they reveal themselves to be individuals, rather than copies. But can we truly believe we will fall down the slope?
When we think of why pets are cloned, we have to analyze the logic behind it. It cannot be confused with breeders who clone dogs, cats, or other animals to preserve what they see as desirable traits. These animals are not pets. Pets are loved as members of our families. When we lose that pet, we grieve. The grieving can lead to the desire to bring back the one we lost.
As pet cloning becomes more common and affordable, we will learn that we cannot replace the one we lost with a copy. It will never hold the same personality as its predecessor, even if it looks identical in every other way. However, this may allow the grieving process to pass. Many people already replace a pet with an identical looking animal, transferring their feelings to the new pet. Ethical considerations have already entered the marketplace in the use of cloning for pets including the overpopulation of pets in the United States that currently exists. Opponents of cloning believe that disappointment in the clone may lead to abandonment and they point to the number of pets awaiting adoption already.
It seems to some that the next logical leap will be to clone people, whether in the manner of recreating an infamous leader, an army of perfect fighters, to replace a lost relative, or to achieve immortality reserved for gods. Most likely, if this technology ever made the leap to human cloning, its uses would be similar to other reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization and surrogacy. Both of these methods of conceiving have been met with similar ethical concerns about interfering with the natural order of life.
It may also give rise to a new way for infertile couples to conceive a child that is genetically theirs.
The slippery slope does not exist. It is false to believe that just because we could clone a pet, we would do the same with our children, parents, and friends. Cloning technology is still in its infancy and progress has been slow. This gives time for people to work out the ethical issues involved with cloning which will prevent most fears from happening. Pet cloning is unlikely to give rise to human cloning, but may yield advances in life-saving cloning of organs and other body parts.