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Say 'No' to the Cloning of Farmed Animals!
Posted 14 January 2011
A critical round of negotiations is now taking place that will determine whether meat, milk and eggs from cloned animals and their offspring can be sold across the EU - Britain included. The UK government’s voice is extremely important in deciding the outcome. Please write to your MP and ask him or her to press Defra minister Jim Paice to reject cloning on behalf of the UK government. Remind your MP that cloning causes additional suffering to already hard-pressed farmed animals; and that most people in EU countries are decisively opposed to cloning. For guidance, see our own letter to the Minister below.
Mr James Paice MP
Minister of State for Agriculture and Food
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR
Dear Mr Paice
I write regarding our concerns about the production of cloned animals for human consumption. We recognise that the next few weeks and months will be critical in terms of decision-making at the EU level.
A key report (Europeans and Biotechnology in 2010, Winds of Change?), published in October last year by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research, reflected widespread concern across Europe about the ethics of cloning animals. This concern was summarized on page 42 with the following observation: ‘The European public see animal cloning as not offering benefits, as unsafe, as inequitable and as worrying.’ The report goes on to declare the following:
- 77 per cent agreed that cloning in food production is fundamentally unnatural.
- 57 per cent agreed that animal cloning in food production is not good for either themselves or their families.
- 64 per cent disagreed that it is safe for future generations, while only 17 per cent agreed.
- 60 per cent do not consider it to be good for the national economy.
As an animal protection organisation, Animal Aid’s concerns relate to the demonstrable high levels of suffering involved in cloning, both for the animals who carry the clones and their offspring. Implanting the cloned embryo into a surrogate mother is an invasive process. In pigs, it requires a surgical procedure. In cattle, embryo transfer is sufficiently stressful to require an anaesthetic.
Most clones die in the womb. Of those who survive, up to 35% perish during or shortly after birth, having suffered heart failure, or respiratory, muscle, immune system or joint problems.
Our view is that this level of suffering cannot possibly be justified. We are pressing for a complete cessation of the use of cloning in food production. Perhaps influenced by the Europe-wide opposition to cloning referred to above, the European Parliament recently voted overwhelmingly for a ban on cloned animals for food.
The farmed animal cloning agenda is driven by the desire of a small number of powerful companies to maximise production - i.e. increase milk and meat output and generate more rapid animal growth. But these objectives - which are already being pursued through other means by segments of the food production industry - are already causing enormous, unnecessary stress and suffering for farmed animals. Higher milk yields are leading to an increase in ailments such as mastitis, lameness and premature infertility. An equivalent drive for ‘improved’ output from pigs is resulting in a higher incidence of leg and heart problems.
Given that cloning is unethical in terms of animal welfare and that the technology faces strong opposition from both the public and the European Parliament, we urge the UK Government to respond accordingly and make clear in the negotiations and deliberations ahead that it opposes the introduction into the food chain of products either from clones or their offspring.
It has been said that an obstacle to a ban on cloned food products is the problem of traceability. Last month, it was reported that you told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that it is not possible - even for experts - to identify products from the offspring of cloned animals. I can see that telling apart products from cloned and non-cloned animals would be difficult, if the process depended only on an examination of the products themselves. However, we cannot accept that a tagging and/or passport marking system cannot be introduced to identify milk and meat products from cloned animals or their offspring. The public, based on all the evidence, expect nothing less.
But I reiterate our earlier point: the use of cloning in food production, per se, should be outlawed across Europe. We urge the UK Government to play a full and robust role in working towards that objective.