The role of the Singapore Veterinary Association (SVA) includes (i) supporting and fostering the character, status, interests, honour and dignity of the veterinary profession and; (ii) informing and acquainting the government & public of Singapore on matters relating to veterinary science and the veterinary profession.
The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that directly impacts the health and wellbeing of both. The SVA recognises the integral role of the veterinary profession in fostering the human-animal bond, especially as pets are increasingly being seen and treated as a member of the family by many pet owners. As a consequence of this evolving relationship between the pet and the pet owner, the grief experienced by pet owners from the passing of a pet may be akin to the loss of a family member. The loss of a source of unconditional love and companionship provided by a pet, is difficult to cope with, to say the least. As the lead advocates for animal health and welfare, the duty of the veterinary profession extends beyond safeguarding the wellbeing of our animal patients, to include the wellbeing of the pet owner.
2 As part of a series of experiments at The Roslin Institute to advance livestock production, the first animal (Dolly the sheep) was successfully cloned from an adult cell in 1996. With the advances in science and technology, it is now possible to offer animal cloning to consumers on a commercial scale, and this is offered by facilities in countries such as the United States and South Korea, using a method known as ‘nuclear transfer’ or ‘somatic cell nuclear transfer’.
3 The SVA is strongly supportive of scientific advancement and can sympathise with pet owners who may be drawn to the prospect of replacing a former pet via animal cloning. However, overall, pet cloning does not improve animal welfare, animal health nor does it have any real social value in nurturing the human-animal bond. Hence, the SVA is strongly opposed for the cloning of any companion animal for this purpose. The reasons are outlined as follows:
i. The promise of an exact replica of a pet obtained via pet cloning is false
For animals and humans alike, the genetic make-up of any individual is only one part of an individual’s identity. While product of a genetic clones may carry the same genes, this does not guarantee that the clone will be an exact replica of a former pet. The expression of the pet’s genome as a whole is beyond the control of any laboratory. Moreover, just like in humans, the experiences and environment that a pet is raised in shapes the overall identity and character of the pet. Overall, the promise of an exact replica of a pet via cloning is a false promise.
ii. Animals used by cloning facilities are bred and kept for the sole purpose of being surrogates
In essence, the pet cloning process of ‘nuclear transfer’ or ‘somatic cell nuclear transfer’ involves the harvesting of eggs from a donor animal. The genetic material from the deceased pet is then injected into the egg, and replaces the original genetic material which is removed. The eggs are then transferred into the donor animal, who will act as a surrogate mother and carry the egg to term. The donor animal is usually being bred and kept by the cloning facilities for the sole purpose of harvesting eggs and/or surrogacy. As there are likely to be failures including destruction of numerous embryos, miscarriages and foetal abnormalities developing, the process is repeated as required until an ‘acceptable animal’ is produced. Overall, the production of clones for commercial purposes does not justify the negative animal welfare implications involved with the repeated pain and suffering of the donor animals.
iii. Many other animals are in need of a home
Thousands of dogs, cats and other animals in Singapore are deserving and in need of a home and companionship. Many perfectly healthy and suitable animals stay for years in a shelter waiting to be adopted, which renders cloning completely unnecessary. In fact, pet cloning may worsen the management of the animal population as a whole, especially if this adversely affects shelter adoption rates.
Overall, the costs and negative implications on animal welfare far outweigh the benefits of pet cloning for this purpose, if there are any benefits at all. The SVA strongly opposes any animal cloning of companion animals.
Statement issued on 31 October 2021
Singapore Veterinary Association Executive Committee