The opportunities to use and abuse animals for humanity’s selfish purposes has never been greater than with the advent of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering refers to the method of manipulating animal genes to introduce ‘desirable’ traits for a range of purposes, including: medical research, xenotransplantation, agriculture, pharming, and cloning.
An animal whose genetic makeup has been modified through genetic engineering is called a transgenic animal. Transgenic animals who actually survive suffer from massive deformities and diseases – but the relentless experimentation results in the early death of millions of lives. Their creation results in reduced biodiversity, and because genetic engineering is a relatively new science, its long-term effects on humans is not known.
Genetic engineering has given scientists the opportunity to play God with the lives and wellbeing of countless animals, for purely selfish purposes. Animal Liberation does not support any form of genetic engineering of animals.
Pain and Suffering
Through genetic engineering animals are often bred with diseases that cause pain and suffering, in order to be studied or experimented upon. Some of the diseases bred into research mice include:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
These animals suffer the effects of the disease, the effects of the experiments done to them and also the effects of genetic manipulation. Inserting new genetic material can lead to defects and chromosomal abnormalities that cause cancer, bleeding disorders and affect reproduction.
Transgenic animals used in agriculture also suffer in the name of increased or improved production. For example, dairy cows around the world have been injected with bovine growth hormone (BGH) to increase milk production. BGH is associated with udder disease, shortened lifespan and crippling of the legs.
The ethics of genetic engineering is an ongoing debate. From Animal Liberation’s perspective, it is clearly unethical to change the makeup of an animal, whether for medical, food or other purposes, to benefit humans.
Currently, genetic engineering is used for:
- medical research – where animals are bred with debilitating diseases that cause extreme suffering
- xenotransplantation – where animals ‘grow’ a human organ to be transplanted into a human
- agriculture – to make animals bred for consumption grow faster and bigger
- pharming – where animals are modified to produce pharmaceuticals in their milk
- cloning – where an animal’s genetic material is replicated to produce an (almost) exact copy.
All of which are unnatural.
The BBC has a good discussion on ethics of biotechnology and is a good place to start if you are looking for more information.
Genetic engineering is relatively new in its discipline, meaning the long-term effects of are unknown. Aside from the effect on animals’ breeding lines, and the potential for the permanent altering of a species, the effects on humans are also unknown. Humans may consume flesh from transgenic animals or receive a donor organ from an animal, for example, without knowing how this will affect them in the future.