Dolly's Arthritis Sparks Cloning Row

January, 4, 2002; 4:51 PM GMT; London, UK (BBC) - Dolly the Sheep is now five-and-a-half years old and has now been diagnosed with arthritis. Animal rights campaigners are now calling for stricter controls on cloning following this news. There are fears that the condition may have arisen because of genetic defects caused by the cloning process. [ Editor's Note: But there is no evidence to support such a hypothesis] In response, Prof. Ian Wilmut, of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, which cloned Dolly, has called for a research program to establish the general impact cloning may have on animal health. Nevertheless, animal rights groups have called on scientists to halt their experiments. They say the revelation proves cloning is harmful to animals -- and have raised fresh doubts about cloning animals for use in human transplants. [ Editor's Note: Obviously, these PETA folks have their own agenda.]

'Innocent Animals'

Ms. Sarah Kite, Research and Information Director at the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) said, "Scientists seem to think that they can mix and match animals' genes in a controlled way, but actually this control is an illusion. Noone yet understands exactly how genes work or what the effects will be on the innocent animals who are subjected to biotechnology." [ Editor's Note: Aside from the fact that humans have been known to eat animals for nutrition, I thought God gave us dominion over animals, at least since the time of Noah's Arc.]

The animal rights group Compassion in World Farming has also called for a halt to cloning. Its Director, Ms. Joyce D'Silva, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I think of the hundreds and hundreds of other cloned lambs who have been born and had malformed hearts, lungs, or kidneys. They struggled to survive for a few days and then had their lungs filled with fluid and gasped their way to death or had to be put our of their misery by their creators. This is the real story of cloning." [ Editor's Note: To our knowledge, there is no evidence for these claims either.]

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Prof. Wilmut revealed on BBC Radio 4's Today program that Dolly, the first cloned sheep, had developed arthritis in her left hind leg. He said: "There is no way of knowing if this was attributable to cloning or whether it was a coincidence. We may never know the answer to this question." He said that there "needs to be a systematic assessment of the health of cloned animals." And he accepted that "scientists may be too commercially motivated." But he continued, "This is a very young technique, and it has great potential. As well as studying the [cloned] animals that are here already, we must continue with the process to improve our use of the technology. Furthermore, it is unusual, but not unknown, for a relatively young sheep to develop arthritis." [ Editor's Note: Don't forget that Dolly has already given birth on two occasions to six perfectly normal lambs.]

This has raised the question of whether the cloning process may have led to Dolly's problem and whether cloning must always give rise to unhealthy animals. Many cloning companies have reported that their animals are healthy. But there has been no independent assessment of the long-term health of cloned animals. And there is anecdotal evidence of animals having been born overweight, malformed, and with incompetent immune systems.

The Race for Pigs

Cloning technology has now been used to produce cloned pigs for xenotransplantation The news came as rival teams announced the birth of cloned, genetically-engineered pigs that may be suitable for animal-to-human organ transplants. One litter of pigs was born on Christmas Day at the Research Division of PPL Therapeutics, PLC in Virginia, a commercial offshoot of the Roslin Institute of SCOTLAND. A second team, a joint venture between Novartis AG and BioTransplant, Inc, revealed yesterday that similar cloned pigs had been born several months earlier [but the announcement was delayed].

However, the move towards selectively breeding animals for their organs has been condemned by animal rights advocates. [ Editor's Note: Such a position would appear to be internally inconsistent for anyone who has not been a life-long vegetarian. Can anyone who has ever eaten meat, poultry, or fish for sustenance not imagine using animals for other purposes? Different countries and cultures throughout history have established very different rules for what is morally-acceptable behavior regarding the kinds of animals that are edible as food ( livestock {like steers, sheep, and pigs} but never pets {like dogs, cats, or horses} or never endangered species {like elephants, hippos, or rhinos}, just to name a few).] But others argue that the research could lead to an ample supply of donor organs to help patients placed on transplant waiting lists [who are destined to die before a human-compatible donor organ could ever become available]. [ Editor's Note: There is another group of advocates that may beg to differ with these animal-rights advocates. They're called" patients." And it is sometimes interesting to see moral affiliations change rapidly when a person (or even a close relative) accidentally falls from one category into the other.]