BOSTON — When Dolly the cloned sheep made her gentle but stunning debut last year, those most immediately affected got lost in the global gasp over the long-term implications for humans. But what does this mean for animals?
Dolly was part of an effort to produce therapeutic proteins in the milk of sheep - an ethically acceptable use of animals for medical research. It's expected that producing small numbers of animals for such purposes will be the most likely application for cloning.
But genetic engineering raises a host of ethical concerns, and cloning has commercial as well as scientific potential. Are there lines that shouldn't be crossed?
Theologians and ethicists debating the human cloning question do see concerns here as well. Cloning most directly raises the issues of artificializing life and genetic diversity. Southern Baptist theologian R. Albert Mohler Jr. warns in his essay "The Brave New World of Cloning" that the use of "unnatural means of reproduction leads automatically to a sense of engineered life forms as human creations," and that "we are not granted license for mechanistic manipulation...."
Many call for limited use of cloning so as not to tamper with genetic diversity, which could make animals vulnerable and raise survival issues. Some caution against extending cloning for convenience or economy into areas such as mass cattle rearing, where natural methods suffice.
The Church of Scotland has declared cloning unacceptable in routine animal production: "The approach that, whatever use we find for animals, we could clone them to do it more efficiently, brings the mass production principles of the factory too far into the animal kingdom."