Other Vegan Views articles
Genetic Engineering Vegan Views 61 (Summer 1993)

Genes are transmitted from parent to off-spring and give the code that controls the development of the new animal. By inserting a gene for bigger growth into an ovum, the new animal can be made bigger and maybe grow faster than the parent. Or an animal may be produced with leaner flesh or other characteristics that will be useful to the producer and consumer.

All is not as simple as it seems. The first problem is that the new animal will not be able to-cope with the change. Sheep in Australia with extra growth gene developed diabetes. Human or cattle growth genes developed in pigs also caused deformations. The new animal's legs could not stand the extra weight. Animals with less fat may not stand the cold and may have to be kept indoors. Out of 11,400 pigs injected with foreign genes in 1990, few were successful, but scientists want to keep trying and expect future successes.

There is a potential for creating animals that will suit the needs of the producer or consumer - like breeding chickens with very small wings so that they fit better into cages or to make them more docile so that they won't peck each other. These developments would greatly benefit the 'factory farmer'. They would look for quick growing chickens, although the present chicken is already full grown in 42 days - so quickly that often the bones are too weak to support its weight.

Animals could also be produced to provide medicine or treatment through their milk. A gene implanted in sheep will produce Factor 9 through their milk to help blood clotting in haemophiliacs. Milk producers will obviously see this as a welcome boost for their sales.

People who develop a 'new' animal (or plant) will claim patent rights and will expect to make a profit out of it whenever it is used. Patents will most likely be owned by large corporations, who will claim they 'own' types of animals or plants and expect payments for their use. This would be highly profitable for them. However, the discoverer can hardly claim to have invented anything new. They have merely located the position of a gene and extracted it.

The European Commission has already patented the Oncomouse, that is a mouse genetically engineered to develop cancer, so that it can be used in cancer experiments without having to inject cancer into it. Compassion In World Farming and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection have lodged an official complaint against this patent to get it overturned.

Genetic Engineering can be used to cure children born with crippling diseases. These are often caused by a deficient gene that has failed to give the correct information for normal growth. By adding a healthy gene, the child can develop normally. It is difficult not to have sympathy for this aspect of genetic engineering, but we must point out that this is treating symptoms not causes. Faulty genes usually result from a direct cause - exposure to radiation, smoking during pregnancy, harmful pesticides. More effort should be made into preventing these malformations occurring. High Tech solutions make us think we can continue to live wrongly and put it right afterwards.

All this horrifying manipulation of the animal kingdom is supported by consumers who are unaware that it is happening. It all goes on in the quiet and secrecy of laboratories. If we can spread veganism to show that animal farming or any animal exploitation is unnecessary, immoral and even unhealthy - then we will put a stop to this Frankensteinish horror. Any revulsion at this manipulation of animals should help to demonstrate the correctness of our arguments. Nutrition and health can be obtained quite easily without the exploitation of animals.

Scientists are over-keen to experiment (and not always with altruistic motives), but they cannot be sure of the eventual outcome. With genetic engineering of plants, for instance, some weed might pick up vigorous growth and immunity to pesticides and be almost impossible to eradicate. Remember nuclear power was promoted as clean and safe and nobody thought of the gigantic problem of disposing of outworn reactors.

It may be argued that our farm animals have already been bred to be quite different from the wild animal; but already this has brought problems. Cows have been bred with such large udders that they drag on the ground and become infected with mastitis, as well as being painful in themselves. We have bred dogs with short legs to crawl down holes, long legs to pursue deer, short-snouted to bite bulls or tiny to sit on laps. Each of these leads to specific health problems for the animal such as breathing difficulties of the bulldog.

Genetic Engineering will not produce animals designed for the sake of their health, but only to develop characteristics that will suit humans. We must emphasise that animals have been designed to take their own place in the Natural Order. They were not designed to serve humans, who anyway seem bent on destroying the planet even without the help of genetic engineering.

Related Vegan Views articles...
Cross-reference: Genetically Modified Animals