Back in 1997, pro-life activist Cynthia Chauncey wrote a letter to the editor about Dolly, the world’s first un-fathered sheep. “What is Dolly’s real age?” she asked. “Does she start at zero like other newborns? Or is she the same age as her mother? More importantly, will they get the symptoms and ailments of old age at the same time? After all, every cell in Dolly’s body originated from her six-year-old mother.”
Since then, those who monitor such things have observed that some clones seem to experience premature aging, and a shortened life span. To deal with the question of age, they have given us two new distinctions: birth age and genetic age. Depending on which you use, Dolly is now either six or 11. (On the human playing field, that would bring some interesting complications to the pension situation and the life insurance business.)
Although the many important biological, social, and ethical questions have never been adequately addressed, cloning experiments have continued. In December, in the midst of Christian celebrations marking the birth of the Son of God, came word of the birth of Eve, a cloned human child (who is now either three months or 31 years old).
The birth was announced, and the credit taken, by Clonaid – a branch of the Raelian cult that finds a “space traveller origin” for the human race more believable than the biblical Adam and Eve story (see page 3 for a report on a Toronto meeting of this cult). That announcement almost eclipsed another cloning story, this one about cats, which has elements that may be useful to pro-lifers.
In 2001, researchers at Texas A & M University cloned a cat named Rainbow. DNA testing confirmed that the kitten, called Cc (for Carbon Copy), was a genuine clone. The undertaking was funded by a company that hopes to capitalize on people’s desires to duplicate their favourite pets.
A year later, it is obvious that even though Cc may be a clone, she is definitely not a duplicate of her mother. Despite having the same DNA, the two cats have different personalities, different body shapes, and even different colouring.
Wayne Pacelle, senior vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States, points out, “Not only does cloning not produce a physical duplicate, but it can never reproduce the behaviour or personality of a much-loved pet.”
From his perspective as a senior executive in a society that has to “put down” thousands of cats each year, he adds, “The last thing we need is a new production strategy for cats.”