Dog Cloning Headlines — Again

Biopolitical Times
A Coton de Tulear

Editors seem convinced that dog cloning is a perennial hot topic that readers are just going to love. In fact, it is a cruel and indefensible fraud. But every year or two, it crops up again, and again we try to knock it down.

The latest, you may have heard, involves Barbra Streisand, the acclaimed singer, actress, philanthropist, activist, and feminist. Variety interviewed her for a cover story before the Oscars, mostly about sexism in Hollywood, the “boys’ club” and the “glass ceiling.” The story included a throwaway mention of her three Coton de Tulear dogs, two of which were cloned from an old favorite of hers.

Guess which bit of the story was picked up by other outlets.

A Google search for “Streisand AND dog” (limited to two days after Variety’s publication) ends with the disclaimer: In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 163 already displayed. Yes, editors are all about the cloning, and heaven knows how many more there are.

Streisand spent somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000, and she won’t miss the money. But can she live with the knowledge that several dogs may have died that her puppies might live?

The New York Times had perhaps the best coverage, except for the headline: “Barbra Streisand Cloned Her Dog. For $50,000, You Can Clone Yours.” That’s probably not the fault of Matt Stevens, who wrote the story, and did provide some history and context:

At the Korean lab, the process requires operating on the egg donor and the surrogate mother — two dogs rented from a lab-animal provider. And, at least in the case of Sooam Biotech, it’s not clear what happens after those dogs are no longer needed.

The company also told the media outlets that the cloning process works only about 33 to 40 percent of the time, which means there is strong potential for miscarriages.

These, ah, technical problems amount to animal cruelty. To his credit, Lou Hawthorne, who founded a company called Genetic Savings and Clone and effectively kickstarted the industry, quit completely in 2009, and revealed some of the “problems” they had encountered:

  • Efficiency rates varied unpredictably and were generally low.
  • The kennels were frequently infected by various diseases.
  • One clone had greenish-yellow fur where it should have been white.
  • Others had “skeletal malformations, generally not crippling though sometimes serious and always worrisome.”
  • One clone of a male was born female, which is exceedingly strange.

There is no reason to think that matters have improved.

Streisand herself inadvertently undermines the whole ghoulish concept:

“They have different personalities,” Streisand says.

Coton de Tulear dogs are very cute, with specific looks, but as every dog lover knows, they are individuals. One aficionado asked: Can she really be certain they didn’t slip her a ringer?


Image from wikimedia