"They are proliferating lives that endure nothing but misery. It's
the new horror for animals in the 21st century." United Poultry
Concerns President Dr. Karen Davis, quoted in "Poultry industry not
ready for cloning" by Joe Cacchioli, The Daily Times, Salisbury, Md,
Jan. 18, 2002.
Unlike transgenic birds, who have had genes from
other species inserted into their embryos, cloned birds have had
embryonic stem cells from members of their own species microinjected
into their eggs to duplicate virtually identical birds. "The idea is
to create identical copies of eggs with desirable traits [more
'meat,' faster growing, etc.] that can roll off assembly lines by the
billions," says biotechnology writer Paul Elias of the Associated
Press (Jan. 10, 2002). On Aug. 18, 2001 New Scientist announced that the US's National
Institute of Science and Technology has given Origen Therapeutics of
Burlingame, Calif., and Embrex of North Carolina, $4.7 million to
fund chicken cloning experiments for the poultry industry.
A "problem" to be solved is that, unlike the eggs of mammals, birds'
eggs cannot be removed and implanted in another bird, because the
yoke is too fragile and the avian ovum's pronuclei cannot be
visualized for microinjection, By the time a hen lays her egg, an
embryo has already begun to develop on the yolk and has about 60,000
Just as transgenic animals are ridden with gastric ulcers, arthritis,
blindness, defective organs, impaired (or no) immune systems, and
other human-created maladies, so are cloned animals. If a chicken
used for cloning is vulnerable to a disease, all of that bird's
clones will be vulnerable to that disease. Scientific speculation on
the causes of cloning calamities is that, in cloning, an egg is
forced to do complex tasks in minutes or hours that in nature take
weeks, months or years. Evidence indicates that the artificially
rapid reprogramming in cloning can introduce random errors into the
clone's DNA, subtly altering individual genes with consequences that
can halt embryo or fetal development, killing the clone.
Or gene alterations may be fatal soon after birth or lead to major
medical problems later in life. Dr. Brigid Hogan, a professor of cell
biology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville says
that human cloning under these conditions "would be morally
indefensible." Dr. Rudolph Jaenisch, a professor of biology at the
Whitehead Institute at MIT, says putting humans through what humans
put nonhuman animals through "would be reckless and irresponsible.
What do you do with humans who are born with half a kidney or no
immune system?" Dr. Mark E. Westhusin, a cloning researcher at Texas
A&M University says that cow clones are often born with enlarged
hearts or lungs that do not develop properly. (The New York Times,
March 25, 2001).
And just as transgenic research animals may be "passed for human
consumption," according to the US Dept of Agriculture's "Points to
Consider in the Food Safety Evaluation of Transgenic Animals from
Transgenic Animal Research," March 1994, so we may expect cloned
research chickens, turkeys, cows, sheep, pigs, and fish to end up in
supermarkets and restaurants without warning labels.
Fetal Chick with Two Beaks.
In an experiment at the University of
British Colombia, a research team headed by Dr. Joy Richman, a
pediatric dentist at UBC, blocked the activity of a protein that
stimulates bone growth in chickens, and added a vitamin A-derived
acid. As a result, "[t]he growth factors changed how bone and
cartilage grew to form a second, nostril-less beak beside the
original," according to the journal Nature (Lee, et al., "Signalling:
Facial development in the embryo," Dec. 20, 2001) and CBC News (Dec.
20). Richman made a hole in an eggshell and put microscopic
protein-soaked beads on the embryo's face. Two weeks later, the fetal
chick had two beaks. "It's equivalent to growing a second nose on the
side of the cheek," Richman said. [No, Dr. Richman. For a bird, it's
like having a second mouth and hand on the side of the cheek.-United
Poultry Concerns Editor's Note].
Her next step is "to have genes send different signals to grow other
parts of the face." In other words, Richman will now be funded to
create every possible facial deformity in fetal chickens, and her
grant proposals will argue that "developmental biologists say the
finding could help scientists understand normal facial development
and what causes facial deformities." The chick fetus with two beaks
appeared on the cover of Nature, Dec. 20, 2001.
On NPR's Morning Edition, Dec. 4, 2001, issues raised
at a recent National Academy of Sciences meeting about genetically
modified animals were aired. The National Academy of Sciences has
been asked to study what the FDA and the USDA should consider in
giving the okay for genetically modified meat and fish to be sold in
grocery stores. So far, the USDA has said, "If it looks like a cow,
smells like a cow, it is a cow, and you can eat it."
Proponents claim "genetic engineering simply does what nature does,
only faster and more precisely." In addition to human health and
environmental concerns, welfare concerns were raised. "Nobody worries
about how the corn feels, but when it comes to animals, is it fair to
do this to them?" Fish genetically modified to grow much faster and
larger than normal fish, and hens genetically modified to be blind,
were cited as examples of ethically problematic "solutions" to
Paul Thompson, a philosophy professor at Purdue University (NPR did not
mention that Paul Thompson happens to be the director of Purdue's
"Center for Food Animal and Productivity and Well-Being"), cited the
"blind chicken problem." He said that chickens blinded by "accident"
have been developed into a strain of blind chickens. These chickens,
he said, "don't mind being crowded together so much as normal
chickens do One suggestion has been that we ought to shift over to
all blind chickens as a solution to our animal welfare problems
associated with crowding in the poultry industry. Is this permissible
on animal welfare grounds? This is a philosophical conundrum. If you
think it's the welfare of the individual animal that really matters
here, how the animals are doing, then it would be more humane to have
these blind chickens. On the other hand, anyone you ask thinks this
is an absolutely horrendous thing to do."
NPR reporter David Kestenbaum who attended the NAS meeting and
narrated the segment, concluded that "the meeting showed how hard it
is to untangle numbers from beliefs."
To order NPR transcripts call 1-877-677-8398
The Ethics of Genetic Engineering and the Futuristic Fate of Domestic
Fowl, by Karen Davis, PhD
Unraveling the DNA Myth: The spurious foundation of genetic
engineering, by Barry Commoner, Harper's Magazine, Feb. 2002: 39-47.
The Gene and the Stable Door: Biotechnology and Farm Animals, by Dr.
Jacky Turner for the Compassion in World Farming Trust (2002). Email:
To learn more about the genetic engineering of domestic fowl-the
promises, protocols, and problems-- visit
In addition to going and staying vegan, write letters to the editor and to TV and radio
program directors explaining your ethical concerns about the genetic modification of
animals. Urge the news media to inform the public about the suffering of genetically
modified animals, to raise questions about the moral appropriateness of causing such
suffering, and to state honestly the professional affiliations of their "experts." For
example, why didn't the NPR segment on genetically modified animals mention that
"philosopher" Paul Thompson is the director of the Center for "Food Animal
Productivity" at Perdue University. No wonder he didn't say that hens should be
given more space, with opportunities to exercise their natural behavior, but said
instead that the crowding of intentionally blinded hens is a "humane" solution to the
behavioral abnormalities caused by crowding.
Letters to the UK journal Nature:|
National Public Radio
635 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20001
Ellen McDonnell, Executive Producer
(same address as above)
Ph: 202-513-2000; fax: 3329
Kevin Klose, CEO
NPR (same address as above)
Ph: 202-513-2000; fax: 3329
Albert E. Pope |
United Egg Producers
1303 Hightower Trail, Suite 200
Atlanta, GA 30350
Ph: 770-587-5871; fax: 0041
George Watts, President
National Chicken Council
1015 15th Street, NW, Suite 930
Washington, DC 20005
Dr. Bruce Albert, President
Office of News & Public Affairs
National Academy of Sciences
2101 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20418
Ph: 202-334-2000; fax: 2158