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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Monday, October 16, 2006

Unable to Turn a Profit, California Cat-Cloning Company Goes Out of Business

The world's first and, as far as it is known, only cat-cloning company announced last week that it was throwing in the towel. Unfortunately, the company did not arrive at this momentous decision because it had belatedly realized the immorality of its work; au contraire, this was purely a dollars and cents issue.

In a letter to its clients, Lou Hawthorne's Genetic Savings and Clone (GSC) of Sausalito announced that it was not accepting any new orders because it was "unable to develop the technology to the point that cloning pets is commercially viable." (See San Francisco Chronicle, October 11, 2006, "Pet-Cloning Business Closes -- Not 'Commercially Viable'.")

Although since its inception six years ago GSC has successfully cloned six cats, it has been able so far to sell only two of them. It recently dropped its asking price from $50,000 to $32,000 but it was still unable to find any buyers.

As is the case with GSC, the public's lack of interest in feline clones was predetermined by their whopping price tag as opposed to moral considerations. Likewise, although many individuals would love to have one of Allerca's hypoallergenic cats, it remains to be seen if they will shell out $5,000 for the privilege of owning one. (See Cat Defender post of October 10, 2006 entitled "Dodgy Allerca and Dishonest CBS Join Forces to Market an Allergy-Free Cat Named Joshua to a Gullible Public.")

Ironically, it was a dog that led to the establishment of the cat-cloning project in the first place. Octogenarian John Sperling, who made millions as founder of the online degree mill known as the University of Phoenix, provided the funding so that GSC could develop a technology that would allow it to clone his beloved dog Missy who died in 2002.

Since dog-cloning is a considerably more complex undertaking, GSC started with cats but so far it has been unable to clone a canine. Disgraced South Korean stem cell pioneer Woo Suk Hwang of Seoul National University, however, claimed last year that he had cloned an Afghan hound named Snuppy. (See Cat Defender post of August 15, 2005 entitled "South Koreans Clone World's First Dog; Vivisectors and Stem Cell Proponents See $$$.")

Although Hwang's stem cell work has been unmasked as a fraud, his claim to have cloned a dog has not been challenged so far. It is curious, however, that GSC has not attempted to replicate Hwang's work. Of course, it is conceivable that Sperling may have diverted his considerable largess to South Korean researchers and this could be the real reason behind GSC's closing.

GSC has also stopped accepting donations to its gene bank and is instead directing interested parties to ViaGen, a biotech firm in Austin that specializes in cloning livestock. Regrettably, this could mean that ViaGen is planning to expand its cloning operation to include cats and dogs. So far, cows, horses, mules, pigs, goats, bantengs, rabbits, and mice have all been successfully cloned. Although at least two groups have claimed to have cloned humans, these assertions are generally thought to be false.

The unexpected closure of GSC's feline murder and torture factory was greeted with jubilation by animal rights groups. "It was just wrong on so many levels to start this business," Sue Leary of the American Anti-Vivisection Society in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania told the San Francisco Chronicle in the article cited supra.

"There were ethical problems. There were serious animal welfare problems. They were exploiting people who had lost a pet and were grieving. It was an impossible promise that they were making," she added.

What she is alluding to is the often overlooked fact that although it is possible to replicate the genetic makeup of a cat or some other animal, the clone will not be an identical replacement because its personality will be shaped by, inter alia, its experiences, training, and the type of care that it receives. Like man, all animals are the product of both nomos and physis.

Also, environmental factors such as the amount of pollution in the air, the addition of new members and pets to a family, and diet could also affect the development of a clone. Pet owners also change as they grow older. As the presocratic philosopher Heraclitus once said, a person cannot step into the same river twice because both the river and the person are constantly changing.

Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was also delighted by GSC's demise. "It's no surprise the demand for cloned pets is basically nonexistent, and we're very pleased that Genetic Savings and Clone's attempt to run a cloning pet store was a spectacular flop," he told the San Francisco Chronicle.

He went on to call attention to the cruelty and high failure rate inherent in cloning. "For every successful clone, dozens fail and die prematurely, have physical abnormalities, and face chronic pain and suffering. Cloning is at odds with basic animal welfare considerations."

The first cat to be successfully cloned was CC (Carbon Copy) who was born in December 2001 at Texas A&M University. She is alive today and lives with researcher Duane Kraemer (See photo at the top of the page). She was produced using the now antiquated nuclear transfer (NT) cloning method and, although healthy, she has so far been unable to conceive.

The first cat to be sold to the public was Little Nicky who was born on October 17, 2004 in Austin. An airline employee named Julie (no last name given) purchased him for $50,000. (See photo above on the right.) "He looks identical, his personality is extremely similar, they are very close," she told ABC-TV's Good Morning America on December 23rd of that year.

The second and last person to purchase a cloned cat was an investment counselor named Dan who brought home Little Gizmo (See photo above) on February 8, 2005. Little Gizmo is a replica of Dan's thirteen-year-old Siamese mixed-breed cat Gizmo who died in March 2004. He is quoted on GSC's website as exclaiming, "There are no words to describe how happy I am."

Peaches (See photo on the right), who is the clone of a two-year-old cat named Mango, is owned by GSC's Leslie Ungerer. Both cats get along well together and have been exhibited at cat shows.

The remaining two clones produced by GSC are named Tabouli and Baba Ganoush (See photo below) and they are the product of DNA taken from a Bengal cat named Tahini that is owned by Hawthorne's son. Named after Middle Eastern dishes, both cats have also been exhibited at cat shows and now live in the San Francisco area.

Although there is very little good that can be said for it, proponents attempt to justify cat cloning by arguing that it increases scientific knowledge and that this savoir-faire can be potentially used not only to clone service dogs but also to preserve endangered species of cats and dogs. (See Cat Defender post of September 6, 2005 entitled "Clones of Endangered African Wildcats Give Birth to Eight Naturally-Bred Healthy Kittens in New Orleans.")

These assertions are problematic to say the least. As it has been repeatedly pointed out by Rousseau and others, all advances in science that are not accompanied by similar improvements in morality and politics only increase the dominance of the few over the many and of man over nature. Par exemple, science produces far more inequality, despotism, pollution, and extermination than it does of the opposites.

Secondly, with millions of dogs being exterminated at shelters each year there is no need to clone service dogs; shelter dogs can be trained to aid the handicapped and to do non-hazardous police work. Unwilling to do this, however, most police departments import German Shepherds from Deutschland at a cost of $3,600 apiece.

Thirdly, because of the cruelty, high-mortality rates, and genetic defects it causes, cloning is not the solution to preserving endangered species. Only habitat protection and stringent curbs on exploitation, pollution, and development are going to save the animals.

Leary's and Pacelle's jubilation is most likely premature; GSC's closing does not mean the end of pet cloning. The super-rich, such as Sperling and others, will sans doute only redouble their efforts to clone their beloved cats and dogs. Moreover, somewhere down the line scientific breakthroughs may yet make pet cloning financially viable.

It would be far preferable if both the scientific community and cat and dog owners would pledge to honor the sanctity of feline and canine life and renounce pet cloning altogether. Losing a beloved pet is a terrible ordeal to go through but cloning will not bring it back. Adopting another pet or simply hanging on to the memory of the one that has departed are far more humane than cloning.

Photos: MSN (CC and Duane Kraemer), Associated Press (Little Nicky and Julie), and Genetic Savings and Clone (Little Gizmo, Peaches, Tabouli and Baba Ganoush).