LETTER: Cloning a nightmare for sheep - and farmers

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Sir: While the science media rejoice over the Nuffield Council's green light for pig-human organ transplants and eulogises the creation of cloned sheep at Edinburgh, animal welfarists despair (reports, 7 March, 11 March).

What of the suffering of the breeding sow - her uterus extracted so that the transgenic piglets can be "born" into a sterile bubble? What of the pigs themselves, reared in ultra-hygienic laboratory conditions, when in a natural environment they would spend over half their time rooting in the soil with their highly sensitive snouts.

As for the sheep, each of these cloned lambs is the result of four separate surgical operations on the donor and recipient ewes. Surgery for science and profit, not for therapeutic or even prophylactic purposes. And now we discover that the researchers failed to publish the fact that some of the cloned lambs suffered from "giantism" and congenital abnormalities of their internal organs.

Nor should we forget the farmer's nightmare scenario - a field of cloned sheep all identically vulnerable to the same strain of disease.

Why is it that a moral worth is attributed to scientific research per se?

Is it not time that we stopped and asked ourselves not, "Can this be done?" but rather, "Should we be doing this at all?"

Joyce D'Silva

Compassion in World Farming

Petersfield, Hampshire