Thursday, April 21, 2005

First clone of champion racehorse revealed

New Scientist (among others) recently discussed the work of Italian scientist Cesare Galli, whose cloned horse might begin to cause problems for the world of horse racing:



However, it is not just the sports community that is concerned about this matter:

"William Allen, head of the team at the Equine Research Unit in Newmarket, UK, accuses the government of capitulating to animal welfare groups. Animal Aid, a British-based animal welfare lobby group, opposes cloning of horses on the grounds that cloned embryos are often deformed or grossly over-sized, and so should not be created for what they argue is a leisure activity."

What would be a good reason to clone an animal or a human, if not sport? Perhaps one might suggest that medical research is the only justified context, but only out of necessity. It is not that we want to clone anything at all, but doing so would be incredibly valuable to our understanding of biology and, specifically, disease. Indeed, this is the kind of argument used to defend animal research more broadly. If there were alternative means to advance research, then they would be used. While I don't think this is an adequate position, it might explain why 'leisure' is not important enough.

This news can be traced back to an earlier creation of Galli's team, discussed here:

Galli, C., I. Lagutina, et al. (2003). "A cloned foal born to its dam twin." Nature 424: 635.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Hugh V McLachlan said...

Is cloning unethical? Is cloning unwise? Should cloning be illegal? These three sorts of questions should, I think be distinguished although the tendency is to conflate them. After all, particular instance of normal human reproduction can be unethical and unwise: it does not follow that sexual intercourse in general nor these instance in particular should be a criminal offence.

Various actions- for instance, commiting adultery- can be unethical where it would seem to me to be a poor idea to make them criminal offences. Various actions- for instance, driving a motor car on the right-hand side of the road- are not inherently unethical but there are good grounds for making them illegal.

You get bad politics and poor ethics when you try to fuse them. Politics is not reducible to ethics. I have argued along these lines in my recently published book entitled: Social Justice, Human Rights and Public Policy (Humming Earth, 2005). Hardback and paperback both available. For details see www.hummingearth.com

Topics covered include: health; health care; taxation; discrimination; education: poverty; income and wealth.

Two central themes are that the notion of 'social justice' is not a sound basis for public policy and that many so-called 'human rights' are not rights of any significant sort.

Cloning, including human reproductive cloning as well as the cloning of race horses should not be illegal. It might, at present not be a wise thing to do. It might, though I doubt it, be an unethical thing to do. Whether those who might want to clone can justify their actions is not, I would argue, a pivotal consideration. We need not justify the performing of particular actions in order to support their legality. The onus, rather, is on those who want to outlaw particular actions to justify the restriction.

11:26 pm  
Blogger andymiah said...

hi hugh, thanks for your thoughts about this. on a completely related matter, i recently heard about 'robot jockeys' for camel races, which comes as a response to the criticisms of child abuse arising from the practice.

here's a link:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4430851.stm

Perhaps a posting on this is needed! I think there is some very peculiar reasoning associated with this strategy to address a very serious issue.

see you soon (I hope!),

andy

5:49 pm  
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