In a recent interview for Variety, Barbra Streisand revealed that two of her dogs are clones of her previous dog—a deceased Coton du Tulear named Samantha. She has been criticized for the clonings, and I share many people’s concerns about it.
The cloning process involves using multiple dogs in addition to the dog being cloned. For success, eggs need to be harvested from donor dogs, which is done through surgery. The genetic material is removed from those eggs prior to inserting the DNA from the dog who will be cloned. Then, the egg has to be inserted into a surrogate dog via another surgery. Multiple eggs from multiple donors are usually required and the cloning success rate is less than a third. That means that many dogs are subjected to surgeries and life in a lab for each cloned dog, a point many critics have made.
Much of the criticism surrounds the issue of how many dogs there already are who do not have homes. It upsets many people that Streisand would go to such great lengths to create her dogs through cloning when there more than enough dogs available. Since so many dogs do not have homes and even die due to the lack of space in shelters, it is hard to justify the effort to clone dogs. Of course, she has previously acquired dogs through breeders rather than from shelters and rescues, so it’s unlikely that any dogs would have been saved if she had not chosen to clone her dogs.
A great concern about cloning is the expectation of getting a dog who is identical to the original pet. Though there are likely to be strong similarities because the genetics are the same, the environmental influences will be different. All of the experiences that made the original dog who she was will be different, and all the factors that created the relationship between the person and the dog will be distinct, too. It’s potentially damaging to a new relationship when the person wants a dog to be just like a previous pet. (To her credit, Streisand has said that the dogs have different personalities and that she is waiting to see if they have the seriousness that characterized Samantha, so she seems to understand that clones are not exact duplicate versions of an older dog.)
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Cloning a dog costs somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000, and a large amount of criticism has been heaped on Streisand for spending so much money to have her dog cloned. The argument against spending the money is that she could have helped or saved a huge number of dogs if she had instead donated that money to charity. Though I appreciate how the expenditure can be considered wasteful, I think that Streisand is perfectly free to spend her own money as she pleases. (For the record, she is widely considered one of the most charitable celebrities, giving to a large number of causes.)
Where do you come down in the great debate over cloning dogs?