The rich are raising their cherished pets from the dead. They must have more money than sense.
I t’s safe to say that one is not overly enamoured of the idea of human cloning. Just imagine how distressing it would be to see one’s enemies safely lowered into the earth only to look up and see a new version of them standing there by the grave, large as life. We may not be quite there yet, but when the technology catches up with the science fiction, it’s safe to bet that those with more money than sense will be queuing around the block to take advantage – at least, if Barbara Streisand’s example is anything to go by.
Earlier this year, the actress revealed that two of her pet dogs were cloned from cells taken from the mouth and stomach of her “beloved 14-year-old dog Samantha, who died in 2017”, reports Ramin Seetoodeh in Variety. Streisand is not the only one.
Indeed, after producing the world’s first puppy clone in 2005, and then becoming embroiled in a scandal for falsely claiming to have cloned a human embryo, South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk has built a “lucrative cloning empire”, says David Ewing Duncan in Vanity Fair. He typically charges $100,000 per pet. Steep, but within the range of the merely well-off. One magazine publisher covered Hwang’s charges for bringing his “cherished cocker spaniel” back from the dead by selling his two Mercedes sports cars.
Back to reality
Thankfully, not everyone has gone crazy. Jessica Pierce’s dog Maya may have “stepped onto the down escalator” of life, she writes in The New York Times, but even if cost were no object, she wouldn’t consider a trip to Dr Hwang’s clinic. The decision, in America, has largely been framed as a personal if quirky one, she says. But there are broader ramifications. Clones don’t materialise out of thin air. The egg donors must be manipulated pharmaceutically and the eggs harvested surgically.
Surrogate mothers must then carry a litter to term. Dogs from this “underclass” are “treated as objects, as means to an end, as cogs in the wheels of human commerce and moneymaking”. Meanwhile, millions of dogs languish in shelters, waiting for a home and often facing early death by euthanasia.
And it’s not good for the mourning owners anyway, as Stuart Heritage points out in The Guardian. A “big part of owning a pet is to learn about death” since “you take custody of an animal knowing that you’re likely to outlive it… while it’s alive you swaddle it in as much love as you possibly can, and then it dies, and then you’re bereft, and then, slowly, you learn how to move on”.
A clone is not anyway anything like what your imagination might suggest. “Clones do not match the original pet’s personality,” Julie Hecht points out in Scientific American, since “cloning a personality is virtually impossible”. Personality is the result of interaction between temperament, which is inherited, and the environment. As environments are never “purely identical, even in lab conditions, cloning an original’s personality, by definition, would be impossible”. In other words, that villain we imagined springing out of the grave at the start of our piece would not even recognise us, still less hold any grudge. Phew.
Tabloid money… looking this good is a full-time job
• “Did you see the Kardashian and Jenner sisters at Kylie Jenner’s 21st birthday party?” asks Karren Brady in The Sun on Sunday. The US reality-television star celebrated in Los Angeles last week with, among others, rapper Nicki Minaj in attendance. The “do” featured a giant ball pit, personalised Barbie dolls and a huge mural above the bar dedicated to the famous family.
But what was most striking from the photos posted to Kylie’s photo-sharing Instagram account – “other than them all being drop-dead gorgeous, of course – is that they each have totally different body types”. One thing they all have in common, though, “is an unlimited budget for personal trainers and chefs… plus the fact that looking this good is their full-time job”.
• I was entranced by a recent article in The Daily Telegraph entitled “The posh person’s guide to happiness: life lessons from the upper classes” by novelist Sophia Money-Coutts, says Vanessa Feltz in the Sunday Express. “If you are upper class, your cup of joy is rather fuller than our humbled mug.” After all, the monied classes have castles and trust funds to cheer them up. But what resonated was a dish called “engagement roast chicken”.
According to Money-Coutts, this is a “dish cooked by young Sloanes in the hope that their other half will be so bowled over by the deliciousness of the chicken that they propose”. Prince Harry proposed to Meghan Markle over roast chicken, so “ergo, it works”. Well, I can confirm it works equally well with chicken soup. “My other half… was so enamoured, he proposed on the spot. Twelve years later we are still engaged and he is still waiting for another bowl of my amber nectar.”
• Expensive foreign resorts are out, old-fashioned British seaside towns are in, says Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail. It began a couple of years ago when “Britain started to reacquaint itself with its coastal haunts – cobwebbed places such as Formby and Minehead, Cleethorpes and Rhyl. A new generation learned that, under a blue sky, dune-fringed Camber Sands in Sussex was as good as any stretch of the Algarve.
Families realised they no longer had to endure the living Hades of the check-in hall at Stansted airport. They could head instead for the likes of Bridlington and Southwold and genteel Frinton-on-Sea.” The seaside revival has been caused by the fall in the pound. “Could all the Brexit hoopla have reawakened pride in our own culture?”