By and large, we accept the use of animals as objects and tools. Sixty-two percent of Americans surveyed in a Gallup poll, for example, deemed it “morally acceptable” to use animals for medical research, and despite the growth of the animal rights movement, there aren’t many vegetarians. And what does a T-bone steak represent if not a reduction of an animal to parts, to its instrumental value? There are issues with farming, of course, especially the industrial-scale factory farming that is the norm today. But whatever our objection to the system itself, the truth is that most of us accept the idea that we can use an animal’s body to nourish out own.
For most of us, then, the real ethical question surrounding [genetically engineered] pharm animals comes down to the genetic engineering itself. Is there something about editing DNA and remixing biological material that is just inherently wrong? …critics of biotechnology worry that breaching species barriers violates the rules of God or nature or both.
…These interspecies combinations can raise unfortunate existential questions, threatening our sense of uniqueness. If we can make our cells spring to life in a sheep or make a piece of our biological code work in a beady-eyed little rodent, what is it, exactly, that separates man from beast?
Emily Anthes, pondering several questions about what really bothers people about genetic engineering. We live in a world where we can make goats that can produce antimicrobial milk, clone farm animals and pets, buy aquarium fish that are part jellyfish, and raise genetically-mutated mice to model our own medicine.
If you’re interested in the technology, ethics or future questions and answers surrounding genetically engineering animals, I highly recommend checking out Emily’s new book, Frankenstein’s Cat.
"Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become."
— Commander Chris Hadfield