Animal Welfare and Cloning

The RSPCA has called for an immediate ban on cloning animals for food following a report questioning the ethical justification of doing so.” – http://news.uk.msn.com/Article.aspx?cp-documentid=7291435

The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) did not categorically rule out the idea but said: “Considering the current level of suffering and health problems of surrogate dams and animal clones, the Group has doubts as to whether cloning for food is justified.”

The EGE, following studies from the European Food Safety Authority and the US Food and Drug Administration, has concluded that food from cloned animals is safe to eat.

So the question of whether or not we can clone animals for food is settled: we can.

Nikki Osborne from the RSPCA however has said: “Cloning causes untold suffering to the animals in the process, but is purely for commercial benefit. The RSPCA believes that the cost in terms of animal welfare in no way justifies any perceived benefits of cloning.

For a start, I don’t want the law of this country changed simply because of what the RSPCA or anyone else “believes”.

The EGE states: “In the Amsterdam Treaty animals are recognised as ‘sentient’ beings and, therefore, while meat production is important in the human diet, and the slaughter of animals a necessity, it should always be clear that the way in which we treat animals should be in accordance with the already existing animal welfare and health standards required in EU legislation.”

This doesn’t quite follow: if it’s acceptable to eat animals for food, and if it’s acceptable to kill them for food, what does it matter if the animals are procreated through natural methods, or cloned? What is it about the process of cloning that somehow contravenes animal welfare?

“However, in addition to these standards, the Group believes that additional requirements should also be taken in intensive animal breeding, in particular the guidance in animal welfare provided by the World Organisation for Animal Health, namely the five freedoms, from hunger; thirst and malnutrition; from fear and distress; from physical and thermal discomfort; from pain, injury and disease; and freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.”

This kind of reasoning is symptomatic of a warped-view of morality and freedom, and is rooted in our society’s altruistic and utilitarian mentality. To talk about freedom from hunger, thirst, malnutrition, fear and distress, physical and thermal discomfort, pain, injury and disease – is nonsensical. There can be no “freedom from starvation” unless you have the means to acquire food. There can be no “freedom from pain” unless you are protected from any person causing you harm. There is no such thing as “freedom from disease” – there is only the freedom to purchase medicine and healthcare to protect yourself from disease.

Freedom is a concept that applies to an entity’s actions. Specifically, it assumes an entity has the capacity to be free, that is, to choose its actions and course of life accordingly. Because human beings are rational volitional beings with free will, and the capacity to make moral decisions over a lifetime, freedom is a necessary Right that arises because of the type of beings we are. To be more precise, this fundamental freedom, this fundamental Right is this: the Right to life. Now, animals are not free-willed rational volitional beings, and have no capacity to make moral decisions. Unlike humans, animals are automatically equipped with the knowledge and instinct they need to survive. To take about freedom for animals ignores the very nature of freedom; because animals have no ability to make free rational moral choices, they have no “right” to freedom.

“Infringements of the above criteria would need to be balanced by important benefits to human beings. The EGE has however doubts whether infringements of these standards can be justified by the benefits obtained by current procedures in cloning animals for food production.”

The EGE is trying to balance animal “rights” with human benefits. But animals have no rights, so any attempt to balance human and animal rights will always produce a contradiction, and it is humans who will be seen as the criminals although no crime has been committed.

What really matters is this: cloning animals for food could produce (in theory) limitless free sources of nutrition for millions of humans. There is no need to compare the human benefit with anything else: only humans have rights, and what is moral here is what a rational being needs to do to sustain its life – if a human needs to kill an animal to eat, the moral thing is to kill it. If a human needs to clone an animal in order to kill it to eat, the moral thing is to clone it and kill it.

The problem with the RSPCA and EGE’s reasoning is this: their morality is based on the utilitarian notion that suffering is the standard for morality. But this is patently untrue: suffering, like happiness, is the end result of a course of action. Morality is our guide to a course of action – not the result. Morality is an objective code to help us make decisions, it is not determined post-action by weighing up the suffering and happiness of those concerned; (and who concerned? How many people? Which people? Anything that can suffer? How is this even measured?)

The morality of an action is not determined by some arbitrary measure of suffering or pleasure. According to Objectivism, morality is a code of values accepted by choice to guide decisions. Therefore, whatever is necessary and beneficial for the life of a rational being is good – whatever is inhibitive and detrimental to such a being is wrong.

Unfortunately, what we see with comments from the EU and RSPCA is a morality rooted in altruism, in sacrifice – because this is the underlying philosophy of society in general. This sort of ethics does not hold human life as the standard, but rather the standard of suffering, that is, death. Any ban on animal cloning would be an absolute travesty.

21/01/08 Edited to add:

Thanks to Leitmotif for pointing out several errors and ambiguous statements in my article:

When I said freedom applies to an entity’s action, freedom applies to action and thought – all freedom is a corollary of the Right to Life. It makes no sense to speak of one freedom without the other.

Also, forgive me for making it sound that freedom is the same thing as the Right to Life – this was not my intention. It is the Right to life that makes all other Rights possible. It is the Right to Life that makes freedom (intellectual and physical etc) a necessity for human beings.

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14 Responses to “Animal Welfare and Cloning”

  1. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    I’m a little confused here. What suffering does an animal incur from cloning? The extraction of cells used in the cloning process? How bad can that be? Have they any idea of how animals are slaughtered? Even if the actual death is accomplished quickly (and humanely?) the smell of death in a slaughterhouse must telescope the inevitable to the herds, letting them know what’s coming, much like stripping everyone and lining them up before the gas chambers must have been really reassuring to the Jews.

    Seems like there’s a bit of dissonance here.

  2. psiloiordinary Says:

    It is referring to the low survival rate and the way in which the non survivors die.

  3. evanescent Says:

    Hi Span, like you, I think those who are object are very confused indeed!

    Here’s a good article worth reading; it relates to eating animals not cloning but the principle is the same. Here’s a taster:

    Now, if we assume that animals have no rights (which indeed they don’t), and if we assume that the animals we breed for food are indeed going to be eaten anyway, then I fail to see the logic in depriving humanity of delectable dishes of veal and foie gras only to spare the animals (who will end up as food anyway–some stewed, some canned, some deep-fried, some dehydrated, some roasted, and then plucked, chopped, cut, diced, sliced, chewed, swallowed, etc.) of “mistreatment and harsh conditions” in the interim before they are chopped up and sent packing.http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2007/10/01/veals-are-not-innocent/

  4. Psiloiordinary Says:

    Hey folks,

    How do you define person and animal?

    When does a person start being a person? lets look at eggs, cells embryo’s foetus etc.

    When does a person stop being a person? brain death, mental illness etc.

    When might an animal start being a person? e.g. apes learning speech, feeling emotions etc?

    These issues seem fairly fundamental to the practical implementation of your “crystal clear” principals. You need clear definitions to be able to apply them.

    Where do you draw the line? Do you think everyone will agree with you?

  5. Psiloiordinary Says:

    Evan’s definition on his earlier posting that Animals have no rights was that Humans decide things using reason.

    But he has not given us any evidence that animals don’t also do this, or for that matter that this is what all humans do all of the time.

    I can tell that my pet dogs use reason very often. How can I prove this? How can you prove it is not true?

    Any ideas?

  6. evanescent Says:

    A man is a rational being. Animals are self-evidently not-rational. An animal acts on its instincts, on a perceptual basis, responding to immediate stimulus. Humans think conceptually and reflect on their past, present, and future.

    Man’s status as a moral being is a result of his FREE ability to make RATIONAL decisions based on his VALUES – which arises from the fact that he is a rational being, and acts in pursuance of his ultimate value: his life. That is the logical chain showing the concept of morality. Do you have an alternative?

    Rights are a social principle to protect freedom to action, they relate to morality. Having rights without the capacity for morality is a prime example of concept stealing (http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/stolenconcept.html).

    I can tell that my pet dogs use reason very often. How can I prove this? How can you prove it is not true?

    In that case, I can prove that Santa exists. How? Well can you prove that he doesn’t? Argument from Ignorance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance) – you said you can prove that your dog uses reason – go on then…

  7. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    I’ve heard the animals using reason argument before. Invariably it’s based on anecdotal evidence. “My dog, Lassie, once barked at me to tell me that Timmy had fallen down the well” type of thing. And they may well actually use some primitive form of reason. We are evolutionarily related to dogs, and all mammals. Who’s to say that reason didn’t begin the evolutionary process in lesser mammals? We’re smarter than chimps, who are smarter than dogs, who are smarter than worms, etc.

    On the other hand, look into the eyes of your dog, while you hold a pistol to his head. I find the very thought disturbing. The only way I can eat a hamburger is by mentally disassociating myself from the process that got that cow to my table. Humans are very good at compartmentalizing relatively illogical notions. Just look at Christians. How else can one say that they don’t believe in magic, after partaking of the Eucharist on Sunday morning?

  8. ordinary girl Says:

    Are societies that make tools, hoard food away for future famine, or wage war on their neighbors only acting on instinct? Both humans and animals do all of those things. I don’t think we’ve found sufficient evidence that animals can’t think rationally or at least that some species aren’t evolved enough to think rationally.

    And I agree with SI that it’s only through disassociation with the act of killing animals that humanity eats animals. If I had to kill every animal I ate in order to eat it, I don’t think I’d be able to do it. But then again, I think I could live with a “hunting for food” model easier than a “farming animals for food” model.

  9. evanescent Says:

    Hi Span, I agree with you that there is an increase of rudimentary intelligence in all animals, from the lower to the higher – as brain size increases so does the ability to remember and the general increase in dexterous ability. I wouldn’t say that animals on any level can “reason” however – but I think our difference here is philosophical, not biological. What I mean is, reason is the faculty that organises perceptual units in conceptual terms by following the principles of logic. Since only humans are capable of conceptual thought and identification of logic, it is only to humans that “reason” in the proper sense of the term can apply. (What I’m saying is that it’s not that humans are “better” or “more intelligent” than animals, although we are, it’s the TYPE of intelligence we possess.)

    To understand such a higher concept of ‘birthdays’, one must understand the concepts of birth, which follows from an understanding of procreation and gestation. To understand the concept of anniversaries, one must understand the concept of time; of one’s passage through it; that humans have a custom of celebrating events; of the concept of custom and tradition; of the concept of “year”, that a year is a one complete orbit of the earth around the sun; that a year is measured by a human invention called the calendar, which is broken up into days and hours – and that one day and hour can correspond to a similar point exactly one year ago in time. All these higher levels concepts require integration of lower level concepts which themselves ultimately reduce to percepts – using the art of non-contradictory identification, that is, logic. That is why an animal cannot reason, and why it certainly wouldn’t be aware of its own birthday!

  10. evanescent Says:

    Hi Ordinary Girl, thanks for taking the time to read my article and comment.

    See my previous comment on the use of reason and why it only applies to humans. I did ask Psi to prove that an animal can reason, and I think this is a burden of proof that rests on anyone who claims that animals can reason. But I think this arises from a misunderstanding of the concept “reason” – such a misunderstanding is philosophical, not biological.

    As for eating animals, the thought of killing an animal with my bare hands is distasteful, however, I would not think twice if I was starving to death. Since there is nothing wrong with killing animals for food, our initial hesitance to inflict pain on animals is an emotional response, not necessarily a rational response, and whether it is right or wrong depends on our REASONS for doing so. I hate cruelty to animals for example, but I fully endorse killing them for food.

  11. mentaloriental Says:

    you know just to clear the air, the cloned animals lets say a fat fuzzy lamb named fatrick.. fatrick and another fatricia make love and their babies are farmed etc and sold… but not fatrick or fatricia, they cost 20k usd each or almost 13697eur(as of today).

    so you get sold the fatties, which aren’t even labelled.

    any do we even know what happens down the line, 50 60 years on? no.

    or what if fatrick does the naughty naughty with a NON cloned naturally inseminated/born lamb? lamrietta? many questions are left unanswered.

    whether tis ethical or not, we as humans, shape the environment and landscapes we live in, and those we plunder. what’s normal? animal displacement due to population growth, or breeding them in zoos and such places to save the species?

    and ordinary girl, don’t worry i’ll hunt that wabbit for u… or maybe a chicken.

  12. evanescent Says:

    Thanks to Leitmotif for pointing out several errors and ambiguous statements in my article:

    When I said freedom applies to an entity’s action, freedom applies to action and thought – all freedom is a corollary of the Right to Life. It makes no sense to speak of one freedom without the other.

    Also, forgive me for making it sound that freedom is the same thing as the Right to Life – this was not my intention. It is the Right to life that makes all other Rights possible. It is the Right to Life that makes freedom (intellectual and physical etc) a necessity for human beings.

    (I have amended the main article to include this codicil.)

  13. IRS Lawyer Says:

    It’s a disgrace. The whole system is rigged by the corporatocracy with “our” politicians in their pockets. It’s been like this for years and years. Corporate greed sickens me. Political corruption sickens me. American capitalism sickens me.

  14. World Hunger and Poverty Says:

    March 1 World Hunger and Poverty Blog Carnival…

    Today I get to post a list of links to relevant blog posts that I received this month. This is called a blog carnival. I plan to do one on the first of every month. Please bookmark this page right now so you can come back later and read more posts. Rem…


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