Clone Wars:
Public Opinion vs. Animal Cloning for Pets, Food, and Preservation

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Clone Wars:
Public Opinion vs. Animal Cloning for Pets, Food, and Preservation

By Carol Glasser, Humane Research Council (HRC)
October 2010

Though the governments of each country differ as to the attitude toward scientific intervention in food sources and animal welfare, attitudes of U.S. citizens are similar to attitudes of citizens in at least one member nation of the EU, the U.K. In both the U.S. and the U.K., citizens generally mistrust or oppose the practice of cloning animals.

Earlier this month, the European Union (EU) governing body proposed a 5-year ban on the sale of meat and byproducts from cloned animals. This is despite reports by the U.K. farming industry and the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology arguing that that meat and milk from cloned animals should be safe to eat. However, the current proposal in the EU cites animal welfare rather than food safety as a major reason to ban the practice.

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In the U.S., there are fewer institutional concerns over the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals. These differing attitudes parallel national attitudes toward the acceptability of genetically modified (GM) foods—with GM plants being almost the exclusive source of wheat and soy in the U.S., but the growth of such seeds being banned in the EU. Though the governments of each country differ as to the attitude toward scientific intervention in food sources and animal welfare, attitudes of U.S. citizens are similar to attitudes of citizens in at least one member nation of the EU, the U.K. In both the U.S. and the U.K., citizens generally mistrust or oppose the practice of cloning animals.

A 2008 poll by the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency found that U.K. consumers worried that the flesh and byproducts of cloned animals may not be safe for human consumption; if cloned animals were allowed into the food chain, consumers wanted them to be labeled as such. Additionally, the survey found that U.K. citizens did not feel there were consumer benefits from cloned livestock, but that the benefits went to capital interests, such as biotech firms, breeders, and farmers.

Similarly, polls in the U.S. find a significant amount of mistrust regarding the use of cloned animals for food: a 2008 survey found that 42% of U.S. consumers worried that meat and milk from cloned animals might pose a health risk, while a 2009 survey by Deloitte found that 49% of U.S. consumers indicated they would not buy meat that came from a cloned animal.

Support for cloning animals varies by gender. A Gallup poll found that only 19% of women found cloning animals to be morally acceptable, compared with 43% of men. Differences were less drastic when comparing political parties in the U.S. Republicans showed the least support from cloning animals (27%), with Democrats and Independents showing only slightly more support (34% and 32%, respectively).

Support for cloning animals also differs based on the animal’s social role in humans’ lives. The Center for Genetics and Society reviewed the various surveys regarding public support for cloned animals. They found that, in the past decade, surveys found disapproval ratings of animal cloning anywhere from 59%-68%. Although disapproval remained high, there was the least amount of disapproval for the cloning of endangered species, with surveys finding 61%-64% disapproval. Disapproval for the cloning of livestock animals was at 66%-71%. The most disapproval was for the cloning of pets, with a strong majority (79%-80%) disapproving of cloning animals in this instance.

Though the citizens of the U.K. and the U.S. have stated their opinions against the cloning of animals, animals are still being cloned and new technologies are continually being developed. The European Commission will release their legislative proposals regarding laws and bans on cloned animals in 2011.