I don’t think I will be able to watch “Yentl” or “Funny Girl” again. I am so angry with Barbra Streisand. And with the news and entertainment media that have given her a platform to talk about cloning her dog. NPR used a cute headline to share Streisand’s cloning story; the New York Times offered her a platform on its op-ed pages to promote her vile choice, in addition to its dishonestly positive article on pet cloning. Though NPR briefly mentions the down sides of cloning, the media coverage generally presents the option of cloning as if it’s a normal thing to want, to do, to advocate.
Cloning is horrible for so many reasons.
First of all, no matter how good the process gets, some aspects of how dogs reproduce mean that dozens, sometimes hundreds of dogs must be used, yes used, like machinery, to create a single clone. Or attempt to; it does not always work. These dogs are treated as machinery. Dogs. Thinking, feeling, loving dogs, treated as factory machines. To learn a little about this process, read my review of Dog, Inc. To learn even more, read the book; you will be truly and justifiably horrified.
For someone who loves her dog so much that she can’t live without a flawed facsimile of that dog to be willing to put hundreds of dogs through torture to … what? Pretend that dogs lucky enough to be owned by wealthy people don’t die? This, to me, is unconscionable.
Secondly, a clone is a genetic copy, but it is not in any way the same dog. The dog might not even look the same. Barbra is quoted as saying she’s waiting to see if the clone puppies have her late dog’s brown eyes. (They should.) But even if the dogs look the same as the “original” (the clonee?), they are not mini-Samanthas.
They — like every dog on the planet — are individuals. They deserve to be loved and appreciated for who they are, not who they replace. The owner of the clone is different — older, more experienced, saddened by the loss of a beloved canine friend — than when she got the clonee. She will raise the puppy differently. People often get two or more clone puppies, so the experience of being raised as one of multiple pups makes everything different — for the owner and the pups. Each individual has her own experiences — positive and negative — that shape her. Each dog is an individual and deserves to be treated as one.
The selfishness of causing suffering to hundreds of real dogs just to satisfy an unrealistic whim is nauseating. The waste of money is as well. Someone who truly loved dogs would use the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to clone a dog to instead alleviate suffering of existing dogs — not cause more of it.
And there are myriad ways to honor the memory of a beloved dog. Artists everywhere make beautiful jewelry with bits of the dog’s cremains or DNA or fur or nose print. If that’s not your style, how about a memorial stone for your garden or mantel? Write a poem or a book. Build a shrine in your living room. But don’t torture other dogs.
I miss Jana every day, as does Cali. But I never for an instant considered cloning her. I am even leery of getting a white golden retriever puppy with big brown eyes … OK, if someone offered me one, I’d have a very hard time saying no … but I would not want or expect a mini-Jana. Jana was unique. As is every other puppy.
I have several large heart-shaped rocks that Jana brought me; they hold a place of honor on my bookcase, along with photos of Jana. I plan to bury her cremains in my backyard and plant a blueberry bush in her memory (we went blueberry picking together and she loved to eat the fallen berries). But I can never replace Jana, and I wouldn’t try.
Cloning is not a valid option and, despite gushing, positive media coverage, it is not a harmless choice. Shame on you, Barbra, for using the media and your celebrity to promote a cruel and heartless practice, just because it makes you smile.
Update, 3/6: I am so happy to see that I am not the only dog-lover-who-writes who is angry with Ms. Streisand. Read on:
The Hidden Dogs of Cloning, by Julie Hecht