Ethics Quiz: Barbra’s Cloned Dogs

Singing legend Barbra Streisand said a lot of questionable things in a recent interview with Variety. Things like…

  • She says she felt she was miscast in Gene Kelly’s bomb of an adaptation of “Hello Dolly!” for the screen. (As everyone noticed, anyone but Carol Channing would have been miscast.) She says “she tried to get out of it,” thus absolving herself from responsibility from the film some believe  killed the big-budget movie musical.

Nobody put a gun to her head: stars say “no” to projects all the time.

  • “By the way, who was called the father of film?” she asks. “D.W. Griffith. He made his first film in 1908. But a secretary named Alice Guy in 1896 started making films because she worked for Gaumont studios. She made the first film, and she’s not given credit.”

Google is your friend, Babs. The first commercial films are generally credited to the Lumière brothers‘ who had their short films screened in Paris in 1895 . Nobody has ever claimed Griffith made the first film; some credit him with making the first film with any art to it. But Barbra likes narratives better than facts.

  • She thinks Hillary won.

“I really believe she won the election,” Streisand says. “I’ve talked to senators from Michigan and Wisconsin. I do believe, like I believed during Bush, they were playing with those voter machines.”

Yes, Barbra’s a politics-addled idiot these days.

  • She blames Trump for the Parkland shooting.

“I think even that shooter was affected because Trump brings out the violence in people. He says, ‘It’s OK — rally, lock her up.’”

None of these cretinous and irresponsible statements bothered anyone too much, though–Barbra has been taking like this most of her life. She also said that she was never sexually harassed in Hollywood. Amazing! This revelation, however, set off ethics alarms: Two of her three Coton de Tulear dogs were cloned from cells taken from the mouth and stomach of her beloved 14-year-old dog Samantha, who died in 2017. The third dog is a distant cousin. The two clones cost $50,000.

PETA immediately protested:

“We all want our beloved dogs to live forever, but while it may sound like a good idea, cloning doesn’t achieve that—instead, it creates a new and different dog who has only the physical characteristics of the original. Animals’ personalities, quirks, and very ‘essence’ simply cannot be replicated, and when you consider that millions of wonderful adoptable dogs are languishing in animal shelters every year or dying in terrifying ways when abandoned, you realize that cloning adds to the homeless-animal population crisis. And because cloning has a high failure rate, many dogs are caged and tormented for every birth that actually occurs—so that’s not fair to them, despite the best intentions. We feel Barbra’s grief at losing her beloved dog but would also love to have talked her out of cloning.”

Hey, as long as they don’t clone Barbra…but I digress.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz as the week runs out is this…

Is Streisand cloning her dogs unethical, or just stupid?

Oh, let’s have a poll before I say anything else…

If PETA could show that many dogs died in pain to produce Miss Scarlet and Miss Violet, I’d concede that they had a point. I don’t know that, and I don’t trust PETA any more than I trust a card-player named Slim. It is true that many wonderful dogs need homes, but Streisand isn’t ethically obligated to want one of them: she wanted duplicates of her lost companion, not a rescued dachshund. If she adopted one rescue, she would be selfish in PETA’s eyes for not adopting two, or ten, or a hundred. (PETA, you know, kills dogs given into its care.)

Is it a waste of money? The Ethics Alarms position is that people have a right to spend money they have earned the way they choose to spend it. Spending $50,000 to clone dogs is no more unethical than giving it to the Hillary Clinton campaign. It’s Barbra’s money, and nobody else can tell her how to spend it, or waste it, according to what they think is important.

For people without children, and many people with them, pets are the equivalent of children. Barbara paid $50,000 to ease her grief, and I won’t call that unethical.

I’ll call it stupid, but with sympathy.


26 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: Barbra’s Cloned Dogs

  1. You really shouldn’t give PETA the attention. They’d probably raise the same objections if she’d gotten new dogs of the same breed from a breeder.

    Ick factor aside, I don’t see how we can call cloning unethical, provided that we can say with reasonable certainty that the resultant organism(s) will be healthy. People consider cloning ‘wrong’ largely due to scary stories from science fiction and the typical bias against things that people perceive as ‘unnatural’.

    There are obviously caveats, of course. Intent matters, and the clone deserves all of the rights and privileges that we would grant to a naturally born member of that species! But I think this is as far on the ethical side of cloning as you can possibly be.

  2. I simply can’t fathom “Hello Dolly” without channeling Louie Armstrong belting it out on my plug-in radio.

    PURE class!

    Was that two or three encores…?

  3. 50 grand? That is a lot of money in slickwilly’s world. But her money, and the old gal certainly has a set of pipes on her, or used to.

    First world problems.

    Now, PETA gets under my skin. Run kill shelters while fleecing the gullible for donations that line their pockets. Preaches against hunting, but allowing animals to overpopulate beyond their environmental carrying capacity and starve is fine.

    My favorite ‘alternate acronym’ is People Eating Tasty Animals 😆

  4. Gross, stupid, wasteful, pointless, and just plain creepy. Though I loathe transhumanism, on this on, cloning her dog isn’t unethical. That being said, PETA is correct on this one…it’s not the same dog.

    Btw on the local news right now is a dog sitting on a horse doing tricks. Life is weird.

  5. The dog cloning is ethical, provided the cloned animals have a reasonable degree of health. I say “reasonable” because we’ve agreed as a society that some health risks are acceptable in the process of maintaining certain breeds. Modern cloning isn’t a perfect process, but to my knowledge, the worst likely outcome for her dogs is a slightly shorter lifespan. Is that any worse than supporting breeds that are likely to live shorter, harder lives as a result of inbreeding and physical deformity?

    But now I feel I’ve just said, “it’s not the worst thing” while dismissing unnecessary suffering. I’ve owned, cared for, and loved a couple dogs whose quality of life would have been better if their lineage hadn’t been bred to conform to a particular standard. Thinking about that, I’m not sure I can reason much further while staying impartial.

  6. She certainly has a right to clone her dogs, but I would consider it envy-responsive to an almost unhealthy degree to attempt to (only) physically recreate your dogs for that much money. As I remarked in the similar scenario here (, envy/dedication is the motivation of imposing limits or requirements on your experiences. Taken too far, it can lead to obsession and tunnel-vision.

    For me, the act itself is decadent and frivolous but inconsequential, and ultimately so are many things that make life worth living. My concern here is that when people spend that much money on certain things, it indicates something may be wrong with their karma.

    (I don’t use karma in the mystical sense; that makes no sense to me. I certainly don’t use it in the “good things happen to you if you do good things, and the inverse is also true” sense, because that is provably untrue and negates the entire point of ethics. There’s a quote of uncertain origin with many variations that says, “be mindful of your thoughts, for they become your words; be mindful of your words, for they become your actions; be mindful of your actions, for they become your character; be mindful of your character, for it becomes your destiny.” That sums up my use of the word “karma”, which I use because there doesn’t seem to be a better word and because it sounds cool.)

    If a person spends a huge amount of money on a doppelganger dog instead of merely adopting a similar dog, that tells me that they can’t let things go, can’t deal with deviations from their vision of a perfect life, and are desperate to create or recreate the image in their mind. Extremely envy-responsive people can be very creepy, because they may try to ignore or deny discrepancies between the world they’ve built and the world they want rather than just accepting them. In many cases a person can’t get things exactly how they like, so they paper over the differences and pretend everything’s fine. If the veneer cracks, so does the person. However, all basic motivations can potentially lead to addiction, and dedication is no more inherently good or evil than any of the others.

    • Oh, EC, my ageing eyes focused on “a doppelganger dog” and my brain registered it as a breed of canine and promptly conjured up a picture of the silliest looking animal in creation. My stomach hurts from the laugh but it was way worth it. Wish I could draw.

  7. I’m having trouble writing this, but if my child (or your child) dies in a horrific accident, would it be unethical to clone that child? No one would be hurt, and it might bring the family some healing.

    I think the answer has to be “yes, it would be unethical.” I see no reason to apply a different standard to animals.

    I “do” think that we will get to the point where all of the meat we eat will be grown in a lab using cloned tissue. Assuming the meat is equally safe (my guess is that it would be safer), it would be good for the environment and for starving nations once the process drops in price.

    • Fascinating post, Spartan.

      …would it be unethical to clone that child?

      I don’t think it would be so much unethical as unproductive. You will not get the same personality, traits, and thoughts as the dead child. However, my view is informed by my religion, in that to my understanding the new child would be a distinct soul, who shared nothing more in common with the past than a twin would (and likely less, having not been raised with that twin.) This distinct person should be allowed to develop as they will, not as another did in the past, to have a healthy life and relationships. My opinion only. 🙂

      Families have ‘replaced’ (sounds crass, but the term is correct in this discussion) lost children with another child. This can facilitate the healing you describe, if that child is allowed to be themselves and not pushed into the mold of a ghost. Other families have adopted from similar motives. YMMV

      I “do” think that we will get to the point where all of the meat we eat will be grown in a lab using cloned tissue.

      I have to get over the ‘ick’ factor here, which is my first impulse. There is really no difference (in theory) between the factor farms of today and a lab grown ‘chicken’ who never drew breath. Such should be a personal choice (if possibly economically motivated, when ‘vat’ meat gets cheaper) and not dictated by the majority, as in outlawing the eating of animals.

      Why would I go there? Take the progressive attitudes with ‘moral’ choices, dictated by groupthink, serving some agenda for the ‘best interest’ of those being controlled. As Exhibit A, I point to how eating meat is approached by vegans, vegetarians, and fellow travelers. Once again, I am ‘evil’ by doing what mankind has done since… well, Adam and Eve.

      Am I paranoid? I don’t think so, given the extreme wish to control and totalitarianism of today’s progressives.

      • I cannot fathom a day where the US outlaws meat. But, I can see factory-raised protein really taking off — indeed, I can see myself opting for it. I already make consumer choices based on factory-raised And I watch fishing lists carefully before buying fish. Heck, having grown up on a farm, I already think most meat tastes terrible compared to what I was used to, so I buy local whenever possible. And, if I am forced to buy crappy meat anyway in the future (because local/organic has become prohibitively expensive), I most likely will go for the option that uses less environmental resources and doesn’t involve an animal getting a bolt to the brain. Ever see pigs going to market? Silence of the Lambs was a stupid premise for Jodi Foster’s issues because sheep really don’t have a good sense of what is going on. Pigs, on the other hand? The sheer terror is evident and certainly makes me feel guilty every time I eat bacon — which is rare. Most importantly, cheap, factory-raised tissue could really help developing nations. I’m all for it — once studies have shown that it is safe.

        Regarding your analysis of child-cloning, I do think religion/environment comes into play. On the other hand, I have a daughter who is a true mini-me. She looks like me, talks like me, has the same talents (and weaknesses) — it is pretty freaky to my family and childhood friends. She also has a sister so close in age that they might as well be twins. Thus, they were raised at the same time in the same environment yet are complete opposites. My anecdotal experience makes me wonder if genetics is the primary indicator of personality.

        We have the best cat in the world who is close to death. And I’m saying “best cat in the world” somewhat objectively. Every single one of my non-allergy friends (and I have a lot of friends) adopted a cat after spending time with her. We call her the “cat ambassador.” My husband frequently suggests that we clone her BUT, the cost is prohibitive and I truly believe that humans have a duty to rescue animals. Plus, because she is a tortie, she wouldn’t look the same anyway; apparently, the pattern develops in the womb so a cloned tortie would either be solid black or orange.

        • I understand your take on things, and where I do not agree, I respect your reasons for feeling as you do.

          This is a step change in human development, as a such will require deep rational thought as our society adapts to the new reality.

          I hope we do better than we did with the last step change: computers, Internet, phones in constant contact, and the kicker, social media.

  8. I’m very uncertain that cloning one’s dead dog is ethical. I’m more certain that it isn’t unethical, but even then not 100%. I’m mostly leaning towards this being non-ethical.

    I do know, regardless of whether or not cloning one’s dead dog is ethical, PETA is not the organization with even a modicum of ethical clout to make a judgment call either way.

    I worry. I know the roles our pets fill in our lives, especially dogs, our ever-loyal companions. I type this as my yellow lab sleeps next to the ottoman my feet are propped on. She’ll follow me to the bed momentarily and lay down on the floor immediately next to my side of the bed, where after various night patrols through the house, I will almost 95% of the time find her snoozing away when my alarm goes off tomorrow morning.

    But I worry. I wonder if our culture has gotten to a point where it puts TOO much void-filling power into our pets that might not be better and more ethically spent pursuing relationships with our families, neighbors, and larger communities.

    I wonder if Barbra’s efforts, though not unethical, betray deeper flaws which could be seen as cracks in other ethical judgments. Sure, our pets ultimately are just property. But they are a special kind of property that become reflections of our own values— images of ourselves. The message communicated by mere copy-pasting a former dear pet seems to me to place an obligation on a new individual that is neither fair nor even possible. This in itself seems to communicate something less than ethical, yet with a pet I can’t say it’s unethical.

    But since the way we treat our pets is a shadowy reflection of our larger values, I can’t comfortably declare Barbra’s decision to not be unethical either.

    PETA has no foundation to stand on in it’s judgment, but I do think there IS something to the argument: why create a new life when there are already other lives suffering that could be pulled out? Though I have to agree, the emotional attachments to “one’s own” are so strong I don’t think we can condemn someone for not doing so. Though this discussion is about human adoption, I can’t help but see parallels.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.