On July 7, the European Parliament asked for a ban on the sale of foods from cloned animals and their offspring, expressing concerned about the safety and ethics of cloned meat. According to The New York Times, a member of the European Parliament claimed that the “technique raises serious issues about animal welfare, reduction of biodiversity, as well as ethical concerns.”
It sure does! Cloned animals are known to pose a risk to their surrogate mothers because they tend to be too large for their mothers to deliver. Many clones have birth defects, and cloned calves have died of respiratory, digestive, circulatory, nervous, muscular and skeletal abnormalities. But, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has said that it would allow meat and milk from the offspring of cloned animals to enter the food supply, the animals appear normal in most ways—if they survive more than a few months.
That’s comforting, isn’t it? If the animals live long enough, they can be slaughtered in the same terrifying ways that other animals are.
The FDA also declared, in 2008, that meat and milk from cloned cows, pigs, and goats and their offspring are “as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals,” which is sort of like saying that brand A cigarettes are as safe to smoke as brand B. (The USDA even enacted a rule allowing animals that come from cloned or genetically engineered stock to be labeled as “naturally raised.”)
To me, the question was never really whether meat and milk from cloned animals poses additional health risks or animal welfare concerns—which it certainly appears too— it’s why would anyone want to consume meat and milk at all? Conventionally-produced meat and milk have been linked to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, cancers, and diabetes, and investigation after investigation has shown that animal abuse is the norm in factory farms and slaughterhouses.
The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies has said that it doesn’t see convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring. I’ve never heard one legitimate reason to justify the conventional production of meat and dairy products, so I’m certain that there will never be any arguments to justify the production of meat and milk from cloned animals.
And since more and more people are resolving to make healthy, humane food choices rather than eating meat and cheese, the European Parliament is obviously moving in the right direction by trying to ban food from cloned animals. Let’s just hope the U.S. government will eventually follow suit. The spread of Meat-Free Mondays in schools and cities around the U.S. represents progress – cloning animals and marketing unhealthy food does not.