It’s true that remaking other species according to our own wants and needs
doesn’t necessarily put animal welfare first. Selective breeding hasn’t always
turned out well for animals—we’ve saddled dog breeds with all sorts of
hereditary diseases and created turkeys with such gigantic breasts that they
can barely walk. And of course, biotechnology gives us new ways to do
damage. The Fudan University scientists have created mouse embryos with
defects so severe that they die in the womb. Some of their mutant mice are
prone to tumors, or kidney disease, or neurological problems. One strain,
unable to absorb nutrients from food, essentially starves to death.
In fact, a whole industry has sprung up to sell diseased lab animals to
scientists, with numerous biotech companies hawking their unique creations.
In October 2011, many of these companies converged on St. Pete Beach,
Florida, for an international meeting of scientists who work with genetically
modified organisms. Representatives from various biotech firms held court
from booths ringing a hotel ballroom, advertising animals that had been
engineered to suffer from all sorts of medical afflictions. One company was
selling pigs with cystic fibrosis and cancer; a brochure from another outlined
eleven available strains of rodents, from the NSE-p25 mouse, designed to
display Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, to the 11BHSD2 mouse, which has a
tendency to drop dead of heart failure. (And just in case nothing there caught
your fancy, one company’s poster promised, “You design the experiment,
we’ll design the mice.”) These companies aren’t making sickly animals
purely to be cruel, of course; studying these creatures yields valuable insight
into human disease.


Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *