The US Department of Agriculture has no plans to ensure that cloning of animals will not result in reduced animal welfare. The Animal Welfare Act specifically excludes the welfare of livestock from review by the USDA.
Animal cloning represents a fundamental change in our relationship with animals. Instead of humans assisting or acting as midwives in animal reproduction, cloning allows humans to become wholesale creators of genetic "replicas" of existing animals. (These copies are not "exact" copies due to the DNA from the donor egg)
Problems associated with cloning include:
*Pre-Natal Failures: Only a small percentage of cloned pregnancies result in live births. A 2007 study found that animal cloning failure rates remain as high as 90 percent (Panarace, et al. (2007) "How healthy are clones and their progeny:5 years of field experience." Theriogenology, Vol. 67:142-151.)
*Surrogate (Host) Suffering: "Host mothers" face grave suffering, much of which is caused by inordinately high rates of spontaneous abortions. Cloning often leads to a condition known as "large-offspring syndrome," whereby cloned offspring grow abnormally large, causing early-term and stressful caesarian deliveries. In one cattle cloning project, 3 out of 12 surrogate mothers died during pregnancy.
*Post-Natal Animal Health: Most cloned animals born on a farm, outside a veterinary hospital, have little chance of surviving. Those animals that manage to survive until birth are likely to suffer a wide range of health defects and deformities, including: enlarged tongues; squashed faces; intestinal blockages; immune deficiencies; diabetes; high rates of heart and lung damage; kidney failure; and brain abnormalities.
Not only does the FDA risk assessment ignore most of the animal welfare issues with clones, it totally ignored the welfare issues related to the progeny of clones. The FDA assumes that most of the meat and milk from clones will come from the progeny of clones, but finds few studies on progeny of clones and none on the welfare of the progeny.
The data provided to the FDA by Viagen, the largest cloning company, raises a number of troubling findings: smaller and more variable litter size for progeny of clones, 25 percent of progeny dying compared to 17 percent of comparators; progeny of clones had an abnormality rate of 2.5 percent versus 1 percent in comparators; the total number of disposed pigs was 21 percent for the progeny of clones, compared to 14 percent for the comparators; four percent of the progeny were destroyed for weakness; the percentage of animals reaching slaughter age was lower for progeny than comparators and the progeny took 5.6 extra days to reach slaughter weight. In short, in this study progeny are sicker and take longer to get to market. Not what your average farmer is looking for in an animal.