Though the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is over for this year, the controversial debate over whether cloned livestock will be allowed in the competition in future years continues to escalate. Trigger, a steer, won the grand-champion title at this year’s stock show, but he can never pass his prize-winning genes on to another generation as he is neutered.
According to a Feb. 5 report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Trigger’s breeder may still have him cloned, despite his being neutered. Simply by taking a piece of his skin to a biological laboratory, such as ViaGen in Austin, scientists could genetically clone Trigger for a cost of about $15,000.
A genetic copy of a winning barrel-racing horse was successfully created last August, though it will take few years before they can confirm whether the clone will be as triumphant as his donor.
Pertaining to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, I believe that cloning champions is, in essence, cheating. Breeders take pride in the amount of time they spend in the upbringing of their livestock.
With the genetic copies of winners from previous years, the suspense of the competition lessens, as we can already predict the winner. In addition, the talent of individual breeders vanishes. When a breeder knows an animal has the same physical traits as a donor, a breeder already knows how to prepare this animal for winning. Where is the competition if the outcome is already known, and the work of the breeder diminished?
Before we know it, breeders will be showing a clone’s clone. By allowing such animals in competition, should we prepare ourselves for competition rings of only clones?
We are not just dealing with the surface argument of whether cloning an animal will create a champion. We need to consider the ethical nature of the cloning of livestock or any animal for that matter.
Within the next year, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the selling of food from cloned animals. Under this new provision, it is not likely that special labels for cloned food will be needed to alert consumers.
Unfortunately, we will see cloned animal meat in grocery store freezers before we see cloned livestock being shown at the stock show.
Darol Dickenson, a longhorn breeder in Ohio, is in favor of cloning because he “wants uniformity of really good cattle. And cloning makes that possible,” as stated in the Star-Telegram. He currently has 15 longhorn clones on order through ViaGen.
While I understand why uniformity could be a blessing for some cattle-ranchers, I question whether diversity is fearfully avoided. Also, if all of your livestock are genetically the same, where is the adventure and the excitement in birth? The anticipation of what the calf will look like, how it will act and possibly even taste, is gone.
Cloning is, in every sense, a heavily debated topic. I don’t think people realize how close we are to perfecting what once was a mere thought of genetic engineers. It is very much a reality.
Through countless breakthroughs in modern technology, scientists have proven that the human mind can do remarkable things. However, we need to think twice before accepting the idea that playing God is the key to our success in the future.
Marissa Warms is a junior advertising/public relations major from Irving. Her column appears on Fridays.