Letters: Ethics and usefulness of cloning

Cloning of a dog is unethical and an expensive misuse of science
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The Independent Online

Sir: The RSPCA is appalled by the news that researchers in South Korea have cloned a dog (report, 4 August). The Society considers it a completely unethical use of both science and animals.

The application of cloning technology to animals raises many extremely serious animal welfare and ethical issues. There is a body of evidence which shows that cloning frequently results in the birth of offspring with serious problems, such as tumours, pneumonia and overgrowth.

In addition, development of the technology requires animal experiments, in this case on dogs, which in itself is a serious concern because of the pain and distress caused.

Some scientists are immediately claiming a medical or veterinary benefit for the research, presumably because they believe this will gain wider public acceptance. However, the Society believes these are spurious arguments. This research is merely part of the race to see if the science can be done, without proper consideration for either the immediate or long-term implications for animals. We take particular exception to the claim that the technology could be used to combat inherited diseases in pedigree dogs. This would be a very high price for the animals to pay when the more obvious and humane solution is not to breed dogs with genetic defects in the first place.

Cloning is an extremely inefficient and expensive technology in animals lives as well as financial resources. The RSPCA believes the money spent on this research would have been much better spent on developing alternatives to experimenting on animals.



A culture of blame against Muslims

Sir: As a Muslim born and brought up in Britain I was dismayed by the advice of Dr Zaki Badawi ("Senior Muslim tells women not wear veils in public for fear of assault", 4 August).

Why should Muslim women be forced to abandon an Islamic obligation to appease the racists? Surely such retrograde calls place Muslims in the dock and at the mercy of those who wish that Muslims should simply hide or even surrender their Islamic identity. As a Muslim I have faced the awkward stares from those who see me as nothing more than a potential terrorist. I have never been more mindful of the weather lest I travel to work in a thick jacket on a sunny day. I do not carry my once obligatory rucksack for fear of stop and search. I am more mindful about running for a train.

If only it were a few racists that have nurtured this environment, but many others have helped to do so. Every day I walk past the news-stand at my local newsagents and I see sensationalist headlines in the tabloids, with the rabble rousing by politicians who employ inflammatory rhetoric. Instead of calling on Muslims to give up our Islamic obligations, surely Dr Badawi should be advising the media and the politicians to steer clear of promoting a culture of blame against the entire Muslim community in Britain.



Sir: Why is Gerald Howarth so picky ("Senior Tory MP tells Muslims: 'If you don't like our way of life, get out'", 4 August)? Why not extend the offer to British-born members of the BNP, the lunatic fringe of UKIP and the direct-action wing of the Countryside Alliance? After all they are as much out of touch with the ethos of 21st-century Britain as many of Gerald Howarth's Muslims.



Sir: The Tory MP Gerald Howarth's advice to British Muslims: "If you don't like our way of life, get out" (4 August) illustrates the darkness that has engulfed the vast majority of the Tory Party. Mr Howarth's way of life has led us, the British people, on the slippery road to torture and abuse of civilians as state policy at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and now to summary and extra-judicial execution at Stockwell.

Had the Conservatives fulfilled their constitutional duty as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in critically scrutinising the stitched-up dossiers presented to Parliament in September 2002 and February 2003, and not joined the war-mongering cabal of New Labour in voting for war in Iraq, Britain would have been a far better place.



Sir: In response to your report headed "Scapegoats" (4 August) concerning an upsurge in racist assaults, I should like to state that as a Christian I totally deplore such senseless and immoral attacks. On the other hand I have been pleasantly surprised that, on the whole, the reaction by the British public to the recent atrocities committed by extreme Islamists has been restrained and muted. There has been no loss of life and no serious damage to mosques.

What would happen in Cairo or Lahore or Jakarta if a group of Christian fanatics, funded and trained by American fundamentalists, constantly expressing their contempt for the states in which they were reared, then went on to commit mass murder on crowded commuter trains?



Sir: With the recent increase in hate crimes, haven't the terrorists at least achieved one of their aims: to propagate hatred between the different cultures and races of this country?



We should give a mile, not an inch

Sir: The trouble with Government talk of defiance and giving "not one inch" to the terrorists is that it suggests a frame of mind precluding any reflection on why so many people in the world hate us. Of course there is no excuse for terrorism, but terrorists are a tiny and distorted minority of the millions of people who genuinely view the West's policies, actions and way of life with utter disgust.

Instead of looking at our current situation through a red mist we should consider objectively why our regimes are so deplored. Where the grievances are well founded - and many clearly are - we should give not inches but miles.

Without such honest reflection and the humility to change, our reactions to terrorism are no better than those of gangsters trying to crush another mob on the manor.



The role of Islam in civilisation

Sir: Salim Barwany (letter, 4 August) writes that the contribution of Islam to modern society must not be overlooked and must be taught in our schools. This would be admirable, as long as Islam's destructive record was also taught.

Mr Barwany maintains that the classical works in Greek would have been lost if not "lovingly translated" by Muslim scholars. If the Arabs had not invaded the Near East, there would have been no need to translate these works. One should also teach the wholesale destruction of Zoroastrian and Buddhist scriptures that took place following Islamic invasions of Persia and India. Nor should the more recent destruction of the 2,000-year-old statues of the Buddha by the Taliban in Afghanistan be forgotten. Similarly, Islam's participation in slavery must not be airbrushed out of history.

Western society has many faults, historic and current, but the fact that millions of Muslims, including Mr Barwany, choose to live in the West rather than in Islamic countries must be evidence that our virtues outweigh our vices.



Remember activists killed in Israel

Sir: J M Jaffe (Letters, 3 August) says that he "shudders to think what would happen if Israel's security forces had shot dead an innocent foreigner that they mistook for a terrorist".

May I remind him of the British peace activist Tom Hurndall who was killed by an Israeli soldier in April 2003; Brian Avery, an American peace activist who was shot in the face and wounded by an Israeli soldier, also in April 2003; the British cameraman James Miller killed by an Israeli soldier in May 2003; or the American peace activist Rachel Corrie who was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in March 2003. Unfortunately, despite these tragic events and the death of hundreds of innocent Palestinians since 2000 there have been no "emergency sessions of the United Nations".

J M Jaffe may have forgotten the innocent lives lost to the occupation, but their families and those who support a free Palestine will never forget.



Women like good beer, too

Sir: Janet Street-Porter seems to think that there are few reasons for women to want to visit pubs ("And they wonder why we drink at home", 4 August).

I am a woman and I go into pubs to meet friends and drink beer: mellow, creamy dark porters, stouts and milds on cold winter nights; lighter fruity or honey beers on hot summer days. We are so lucky in Britain to have such a fantastic choice. I don't drink "bucketloads" and often just have a swift half while out shopping. I don't like smoke, grime, unwelcoming atmospheres, TVs, thumping music or ghastly attempts at "themeing" either, so I don't go in those sort of pubs.

I use my senses and my Good Beer Guide to seek out the kind of pubs I do like and I thank Camra with all my heart for working to ensure that I can continue to do so.



Intelligent design vs evolution theory

Sir: I refer to your article on evolution and "intelligent design" ("Mythology in the White House", Editorial, 4 August). You seem to have overlooked the reality that the theory of random selected mutation is unimaginably inadequate to explain the level of organisation embodied in the sensory world, and that the vast gaps in the fossil records remain as gaping holes in the continuity implicit in Darwin's theory.

That gradual evolution does occur has certainly been convincingly demonstrated, with tiny shellfish, but that does not even start to answer the bigger questions. St Paul states the essence of the creationist case in Hebrews 11:3: "...things which are seen were not made of things which do appear". That is, the material does not make the material; the material is made by the non-material.

Such a world-view is compatible with an open-minded scientific method, one that can look honestly at the huge questions unanswered by Darwinism. A narrow-minded insistence on scientific dogma, albeit one that has produced remarkable control of the mineral world, will get us nowhere in understanding life and consciousness.



Sir: Adherents to the idea of "intelligent design" in creation ought to consider the implications of the theory. Life on Earth is, for most sentient beings, short and stressful, often painful, and involves a constant search for food. The vast majority of creatures suffer a painful and lonely death, usually at the hands of another desperate creature.

The average English garden, full of nature's wonders, is a 24-hour hell-hole of kill-to-eat or be-killed-to-be-eaten. The next time you hear of a baby lamb bleating for its mother as its eyes are being pecked out by a crow, or witness the horror of a fly being eaten alive in a spider's web, try and envisage just what kind of intelligence contrived a world with such "wonders" in it. And ask yourself, do I really want to worship whoever thought this up?



Sir: The "intelligent design" theory explains the global warming problem perfectly. There are no fossil fuels! What we refer to as such arose by intelligent design and were clearly designed for us to use, never mind the fact that we can't use them intelligently. Come to think of it, global warming is probably also part of intelligent design, so it's even less of a problem for the United States.



Mayor wrong on Israel

Sir: I refer to Ken Livingstone's crass comment in his letter of 4 August. Of course he is totally opposed to the killing of civilians just as all right-minded people are. Once again, however, he cannot help but anger the Jewish community by singling out the Israeli army when it comes to the death of civilians. Yes, unfortunately some Palestinian civilians are caught in the crossfire of Israeli operations and even the British army and police forces have found this inevitable in their own operations. Ken Livingstone might one day realise that the Israelis, just like the British do not, unlike suicide bombers, target those civilians.



Rail link to Africa

Sir: It is impossible to disagree with Deborah Orr's premise (Opinion, 30 July) that wearing wristbands is not enough to deal with Africa's problems. Long term improvements are needed - but building roads? The drought and the locusts that have devastated Niger may not be linked to climate change, but this is the kind of problem we expect to become more frequent as our pollution warms the Earth. Africa needs sustainable transport, and rail is the best option. A rail link between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa would be of great benefit to both Europe and Africa.



What's not good for us

Sir: Perhaps a sad but interesting parallel may be drawn between the self-medicating habits of sick chimps ("I know what's good for me", 3 August) and the millions in this "civilised" society seeking escapism through alcohol and illegal drugs.



Reading the stars

Sir: Now they know the whereabouts of Planet Xena, I look forward to more accurate predictions from our astrologers. After all, not one of them predicted its discovery.