“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.