Farming News - Animal welfare groups react to EU cloning proposals

Animal welfare groups react to EU cloning proposals


Animal welfare campaigners have rejected draft proposals adopted by the European Commission last month.


The proposals were approved on Wednesday 18th July; if passed by the EU's other legislative bodies, the rules would ban meat and dairy products from cloned animals but not their offspring. The measures follow an earlier, unsuccessful attempt to set out regulations governing use of animal products from cloned animals.


Welfare groups have criticised the measures as ineffective, as animal cloning is used to create breeding animals, rather than those used directly in food production.  


Following the first successful cloning of a mammal – Dolly the sheep – by scientists in Scotland in 1996, the practice has become more widespread, and is used commercially in the USA and some South American countries. However, commercial cloning is illegal in Europe as it is deemed unethical; cloning has serious animal welfare implications and is successful in less than 20 percent of cases.


Both clones and the surrogate mothers who carry them to birth suffer health and welfare problems. Cloned animals tend to have a shorter lifespan than those which are conventionally bred.  They frequently suffer from cardiovascular and respiratory problems and have poor immune systems.


Monique Goyens, Director General of European Consumers' Organisation BUEC criticised the Commission's proposals in December. She said, "These measures are unfortunately a near duplicate of previous efforts which failed three years ago. The offspring of clones are off-limits to the proposal, which instead focuses on meat from clones themselves. No farmer would ever make meat out of a €100,000 clone. Cloned animals are instead used for reproduction purposes, not to end up on our plates."


Reacting to the draft legislation late last month, Compassion in World Farming's policy advisor Peter Stevenson slammed the Commission's actions as "cynical" and misleading. He commented, "It's a cynical proposal designed to fool the public into thinking the Commission is tackling cloning. In fact, it will be allowing the offspring of clones to be used in EU farming and insisting that consumers will have to swallow meat and milk from the offspring of clones. This food won't even be labelled."


In a recent poll of EU citizens, 83 percent of respondents expressed opposition to the idea of meat from cloned animals and their offspring entering the food chain, even if clear labelling were introduced for such products. 


Compassion's Mr Stevenson said that, by allowing the offspring of clones to be used on EU farms and in food products while banning the controversial practice in the EU, the Commission is contradicting itself. He said the draft proposals send the message to the public that cloning is "so inhumane that it will be banned in Europe," but to farmers "that they may enjoy the fruits of cloning as long as it is not carried out in Europe."


Under the proposals, farmers in the EU will still be allowed to import the offspring or semen of clones from countries where the practice is legal.


Mr Stevenson went further than BUEC's Monique Goyens, adding, "The Commission's proposal is actually a backwards step from the discussion that occurred two years ago. At least then, they were planning to require food from the offspring of clones to be labelled as such. Now consumers won't even know if they are eating such food."


He continued, "This, ultimately is a debate not just about cloning, but about what kind of farming we want in the EU. What future do we foresee for European farming? Is it to be increasingly intensive and focusing on ever higher productivity, even though conventional selective breeding for high milk yields and rapid growth has already led to major health problems for the animals involved? Or is it to be humane and sustainable? The real issue has currently been side-stepped."