Barbra Streisand made waves this week by slyly burying into an interview for Variety magazine that she had her (now dead) dog named Samantha cloned — not once, but into two (living) dogs. She later defended the decision in a New York Times editorial.
The two dogs in question, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett, came into being through a surrogate mother dog and a hefty fee. Viagen Pets out of Texas charges about $50,000 per cloned animal.
Some questions linger.
Is it ethical? That all depends on your definition of ethical. From a biological standpoint, it's no worse than a chicken laying an egg... it's just that the apparatus and procedure is a lot more complicated (involving tissue samples at a time close to death). From a moral standpoint, it's this writer's opinion that it if you've got $50,000 to spend on resurrecting your pet without resorting to Pet Cemetary-esque options, then go for it.
Will they act the same as the pet? The cloned animals should act similarly but won't have the memory nor upbringing of the original dog. As with any new creature, they were born into this world anew. So Barba most likely didn't (and shouldn't) expect either Violet or Scarlett to answer to anything that Samantha did.
So, what's the point? It's more sentimental than anything else. Having a pet (or pets) that look exactly like your deceased pet makes it a lot easier to deal with the grief of losing a furry loved one.
While the news is certainly interesting due to the celebrity tie-in, this is by far not the first time that cloning animals has taken place. Dolly, the sheep, was cloned in 2001 (much to the derision of the public for cloning an animal famous for looking similar to every other of its species). China recently made some science journal headlines for cloning monkeys, and dog cloning itself goes back as far as 2006.