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Introduction

Advances in genetics have produced cloned animals and transgenic animals, in which there has
been a deliberate modification of the genome so that it contains foreign DNA. In transgenic
animals, recombinant DNA technology is used to make a heritable or non-heritable modification
so that the resulting animals, or their offspring, might be used to study the biology of genetic
regulation and the influence of certain proteins or hormones in the body, to produce specific
proteins or hormones, to test the toxicity of drugs or other interventions, and/or to improve
growth and yields in agriculture. This type of genetic alteration goes beyond selective breeding
for desired traits because it inserts genetic material foreign to the animal’s genome. One potential
use for this technology is to create animals with organs or tissue suitable for transplant to humans
—xenotransplantation. Nuclear transfer or other techniques can be used to clone animals either
to preserve a genetically altered animal or to create identical animal lines.

Transgenic animals
A transgenic animal is an animal in which foreign DNA has been incorporated into its original
DNA. Transgenic animals are altered so that their DNA produces chemicals that normally they
would not produce. There are numerous different ways to create transgenic animals. The most
popular is microinjection of recombinant DNA into the male pronucleus of an in vitro fertilized
egg. The second most popular method is embryonic stem cell transfer. Other methods include but
are not limited to chemical or viral delivery into embryonic stem cells, or homologous
recombination with embryonic stem cells.

Classification of transgenic animal


Transgenic animals can be divided into five major categories:

 disease models
 transpharmers
 xenoplanters
 food sources
 scientific models

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Disease models are animals that have been modified to exhibit the symptoms and progression of
a particular disease, so that treatments for that disease can be tested on them.

Transpharmers are animals modified to express a particular protein or suite of proteins in their
milk to avoid animal sacrifice when obtaining the drug. The proteins can be purified to produce
medicines and hormones to treat humans, or can possibly be administered as medicinal milk
itself.

Xenoplanters are animals that have been engineered to not express the foreign antigens that
normally prevent the transplantation of their organs into humans.

Food sources are animals that grow bigger or faster to produce more food in a shorter amount of
time with fewer resources.

Scientific models are animals producing more or less of a particular protein than usual, letting us
observe that protein’s purpose in biological mechanisms or development, which can in turn be
applied to humans.

Ethics
Ethics (also known as moral philosophy) is a law philosophy that addresses questions about
morality — that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, justice, virtue, etc. Ethical
issues have become more salient in many walks of life and are often the matter of wide-reaching
policy decisions.

Major branches of ethics include:

 Meta-ethics, about the theoretical meaning and reference of moral propositions and how
their truth-values (if any) may be determined;
 Normative ethics, about the practical means of determining a moral course of action;
 Applied ethics, about how moral outcomes can be achieved in specific situations;
 Moral psychology, about how moral capacity or moral agency develops and what its
nature is; and
 Descriptive ethics, about what moral values people actually abide by.
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Transgenic animals and ethics
Ethical concerns about the genetic engineering of animals may conveniently be divided into two
basic types. The genetic engineering of a living organism may for a variety of reasons be thought
of as being morally problematic in itself; for example, such engineering may be perceived as
wrong or morally dubious due to the mode of production or to the source of genetic material. But
genetic engineering may also be thought of as morally problematic because of its consequences.

Ethical issues associated with genetically modified animals are sometimes discussed as though
they are synonymous with welfare issues, although they arise from many sources, primarily:

 Our views and beliefs about animals and nature, and the relationship of animals with
humans.
 The demonstrable and possible consequences of producing and using transgenic animals,
including those related to animal welfare, ecology and the environment, economic and
social factors, and human health.

Ethical issues derived from consequences


Many ethical questions arise from the consequences (animal welfare, environmental, human
health, social and economic) of the development and use of transgenic animals. Some commonly
voiced concerns are presented here, with examples of their origins.

 Is it ethical to use transgenic animals where the purpose of that genetic modification
means that disease or disability or environmental degradation will be inevitable? The
often-cited example is that of oncomice, mice genetically modified to inevitably develop
cancers. A second example is the Australian proposal to release transgenic bacteria which
will make ruminant stock animals more immune to the poisonous effects of fluoroacetate.
This proposal was rejected by the Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee after
widespread criticism on environmental grounds. The genetic modification would have
enabled livestock grazing to be expanded and intensified in areas of native vegetation
which was previously protected by its naturally high levels of fluoroacetate, with

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probable effects on the conservation of native fauna and flora. The high risk of spread to
feral ruminant populations was also of concern.

 Is it ethical to establish transgenic animal lines where there is much greater "wastage" of
animals? Some sources of wastage include low success rates of current techniques to
create novel lines of transgenic animals (often cited at 2% or less), and inherent
phenotypic instability that requires culling of variant animals in order to keep the
transgenic line "pure". A third source may be variable demand for a wide range of animal
lines, placing pressure on businesses that supply animals to manage their stock animals in
ways which increase economic efficiencies but require more culling.

 Is it ethical to use transgenesis to address welfare concerns and downgrade conditions of


care? Transgenesis is often cited as having the potential to reduce welfare problems in
animal production, in particular reducing disease susceptibility. However, it could be
argued that (using the example from the Banner Report) the transgenic pig that has been
modified to have decreased sentience and responsiveness is less likely to experience
suffering from its condition, and hence that the genetic modification produces a net
welfare benefit for the individual. Taken one step further, the view could be taken that
such a pig would be equally content in a smaller enclosure than those given to its non-
transgenic pigs.

 Is it ethical to develop transgenic animals where benefits are not primarily for health,
welfare or environment? For example, mare economic efficiencies, human comfort (such
as baldness cures or pets with novel characteristics), or scientific curiosity and public
acclaim (such as the much-publicized plan by the Australian Museum to clone the
Tasmanian tiger) sufficiently ethical reasons to develop transgenic animals?

Major ethical issues relating to transgenic animals

 The species barrier and our right to “play God”.


 Environmental concerns.
 The potential applications of this technology.
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 Harm to animals

Common concerns about transgenic animals


For some people, the word “transgenic” triggers confusion and mistrust. It may be that some
experiments deserve this disapproval, but certainly not all of them, and not without education.
The following are top ethical issues with transgenic animals. We have no right to meddle in the
genomes of living beings, and for curiosity or novelty’s sake create monsters. There is a high
death rate when creating transgenic animals. Is it worth all that death just to have one successful
animal? Animals that express the transgene are monsters. They either live a short life of suffering
because of whatever gene they are given, or they unknowingly become a danger to creatures
around them, and if they escape, to the environment as well.

Common concern include-


 Animal rights versus animal welfare
A distinction should be made between animal rights and animal welfare. The difference is
that “animal welfare theories accept that animals have interests but allow those interests
to be traded away as long as the human benefits are thought to justify the sacrifice, while
animal rights theories say that animals, like humans, have interests that cannot be
sacrificed or traded away to benefit others. However, the animal rights movement does
not hold that rights are absolute—an animal’s rights, just like those of humans, must be
limited, and can certainly conflict. Thus, according to those who believe in animal rights,
the making of transgenic animals is wrong without room for argument. However, those
who believe in animal welfare do condone the responsible and humane experimentation
on animals, including the making of transgenic animals.

 Tinkering with the genome


Humans have been “meddling in the genomes of other animals” for centuries, possibly
millennia. All the breeds of dogs seen today are results of selective breeding. The wanted
traits were kept, and the unwanted traits were bred out. Modern day horses, cows, sheep,
and many other species are very different than the original domesticated species. It is true
that selective breeding deals with traits already present in the species, while transgenic

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animals are often implanted with traits from a different species entirely. However, most
scientists see transgenesis as a logical step beyond selective breeding, a way to open
doors past what we previously have known to cure diseases and possibly end world
hunger entirely. In fact it could be argued that for some transgenic animals, the presence
of the transgene confers less overall change to the animal than selective breeding. This
would especially be the case for transpharmers that show no expression of the transgene
outside the milk. It is current policy that experimenters must predict as accurately as
possible how the transgene will affect the animal and minimize suffering to the best of
their knowledge.

 Transgenic art
Creating monsters simply because it can be done certainly should not be a motivation for
scientists, and it almost certainly is not currently allowed by university animal care
committees that oversee such research. Trusted scientific journals publish articles in order
to increase biological and medical knowledge. There is little knowledge to be made from
making monsters. However, there are some privately funded experiments done for “art’s
sake”. Here I am referring to “Alba,” the rabbit that glows under UV light, designed by
and created for Eduardo Kac. The rabbit is part of Eduardo Kac’s plan to create
“transgenic art.” This refers to animals and plants with a planned genome intended to
express an artistic idea symbolized by the proteins they code for. With more species
going extinct every day, Kac hopes that artists can add to the biodiversity by creating new
species of their own design (Kac, 1998). Although Kac does speak of artists having the
responsibility to take care of the new life they create, “transgenic art” is created largely
for the sake of doing it, with no thought for medical advancement or saving lives. In
plants, this can be interesting and compelling. However, in animals, it crosses the line of
what is necessary.

 Animal death versus human lives saved


It is true that there is still a low success rate in creating transgenic animals. For every
success, there is a score or more of failures. In general, the higher the species of
transgenic animal, the greater the cloning failure. These failures are transgenic animals
that die before they are born, or animals that are born without the transgene. However,
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the number of failures continues to shrink as scientists become better at the various
cloning techniques. Also, the prenatal deaths of a few animals mean saving the lives of
potentially thousands of humans. The reward is very high, and the improvement of the
process is continually reducing the cost.

 Transgenic animals and the environment


One large setback to the making of new transgenic animals, particularly marine life and
large farm animals is a concern for the environment. If any of these animals should
escape, it is believed that they would breed out all the natural varieties due to their greater
level of fitness and thus contribute to the decrease of genetic variability within that
species. Also, people are concerned that if these animals produce undocumented
offspring, people will end up eating the meat or drinking the milk from transgenic
animals unknowingly. Transgenic animals are not “more fit” than their “normal” cousins.
They are specialized, just like most domestic breeds. In the case of the transgenic salmon,
the US Food and Drug Administration will not approve the use of transgenic salmon
unless they prove to be sterile. This means that salmon cannot be responsible for breeding
out the wild type. Other than the transgene, which is different in almost every case, most
transgenic animals are just like the domestic breeds they came from. Until transgenic
animals are better known and accepted, the fear of eating one unknowingly should be
respected, even by those who think that there is nothing to fear. The authors of this IQP
think that until transgenic animals become commonplace, they should be carefully and
securely kept, if for no other reason than they embody a rather expensive investment.

 Religions and transgenic ethics


Even if an individual scientist does not believe in a particular faith, it is the responsibility
of the scientific community to at least consider the beliefs of the different faiths. For
example, the Hindu faith holds that cows are sacred, and nonviolence should be a way of
life. In fact, a large number of devout believers of Hinduism are vegetarians. Ahimsa, or
nonviolence, is the Hindu tool used to judge all major ethical issues, including medical
and scientific ones. So, in the case of the transpharming cows, can it be said that violence
is done to the cow? Milking cows is not considered to be a violent act, and drinking milk

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is also nonviolent. So according to this thinking, taking and using a medicine produced in
the cow’s milk is not against the Ahimsa beliefs of Hinduism, although many Hindus
argue that tampering at all with a cow, or interfering with its daily routines is to be
avoided, so these Hindus may take issue with transgenic cows. Certainly, the cow
probably does not notice which proteins are produced in her milk, as long as it is not
expressed in the blood, and does no harm to her calf. Such discussion needs to take place
on these issues, even if the process is difficult, to promote greater understanding. In spite
of the Hindu stance, the authors of this IQP argue that creating transgenic cows should be
allowed when human lives are to be saved and no animal suffering occurs, especially in
the case of transpharmers, although we are against any growth hormone bovine
transgenesis.

Conclusion
When ethical assessments need to be made in a practical setting, an explicit framework or tool to
assist this task should be employed in order to allow for greater transparency and quality control.
Ethical and welfare assessments of animal biotechnology are necessary and, in spite of their
value dimensions, are far from being relegated to the realm of the merely subjective and
idiosyncratic. Science and ethics can work together to make such assessments practical and
transparent. It is hoped that this can pave the way for ethics and animal welfare aspects to
become concrete and permanent features of our regulatory systems and to be integrated in
routine quality assessments of animal biotechnology for transgenic animal production.

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