Technology

The Cloning Wars: Could Young People Breathe New Life Into a Contentious Process?

Image Credit: Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

You may have heard of celebrities like Simon Cowell and Barbara Streisand cloning their dogs, but the technology to replicate a pet isn’t only for the rich and famous anymore. For the price of a nice car, anyone can clone their beloved cat or dog. In fact, the Washington Post published a story about the process recently.

There are worries about pet cloning, some practical and some philosophical. No, your furry friend won’t come back as a deranged, Pet Sematary revenant, but neither will it be the same animal. Even ViaGen Pets, which specializes in cloning, says the process isn’t about copying an entity but rather its genes. Which means Old Yeller 2.0 may only look like the original.

Even if that’s a disappointment (and for some it is), it’s plain we’ve come a long way since Dolly the sheep first amazed and infuriated people back in the mid-’90s. Now, as the technology becomes less prohibitive, it’s worth wondering how common a process like this could be. How much have our feelings about animal—or pet—cloning changed? To find out, CivicScience asked several thousand adults what they thought about cloning deceased animals and pets.

To begin with, people are more comfortable with cloning deceased animals than they are with pets, though the numbers aren’t terribly far apart. Twenty percent of adults say they’re fine with cloning an animal, while only 15% say cloning a pet is okay. This result is down from last year’s survey, which asked owners if they would clone a beloved pet and netted positive responses from 21% of adults. At the same time, negative responses dipped from 71% to 67%, suggesting more people are at least leaving the idea up for debate.

Between men and women, the idea of cloning a pet splits fairly evenly, with neither that much in favor. But straight-up animal cloning is markedly different. Though the majority are against it, men are still three times more likely than women to be okay with cloning deceased animals. Basically, they’d prefer you not resurrect a companion, but if it’s maybe a cow or a chicken, or a distinctly scientific pursuit like reviving extinct species, they’re less likely to care.

And that goes double for young people. Though people of every generation tend to oppose pet cloning, favorability for animal cloning only increases with the march of time. Just 12% of adults age 55 or older are okay with cloning a deceased animal, while Gen Xers and Millennials are almost twice as likely to accept it. 

And Gen Z is even more open to the idea. Not only do 38% say they’re fine with cloning deceased animals, only 37% oppose it—a massive drop from the 56% of Millennials, some of whom are only a few years older. A large portion of Gen Z remains on the fence about pet cloning, too, leaving only half outright opposed.

Pet Owners and Tech Lovers

It’s tempting to think pet owners would embrace the idea of cloning. Lovable antics and near-human personalities often make pets an extension of the family, and it’s extremely difficult to lose them. But the data suggest that not all owners are the same. The type of pet you have—namely a dog or a cat—tends to inform your beliefs.

For the most part, people who own pets are more likely to approve of cloning as a practice than non-owners. Twenty-eight percent of owners with multiple pets are fine with cloning pets or deceased animals, and cat owners tend to be even more emphatic. One in four have no problem with cloning a deceased animal, while as many as 35% approve of cloning pets.

Dog people would much rather let their eternally sleeping dogs lie, however. Just 13% of them approve of cloning a pet and only 9% are okay with cloning a dead animal. Could it be they’re more aware of the issues of dog cloning specifically, or are those crazy cat people actually a little too obsessed with their feline friends? That one’s hard to say, but the amount of information questioning the process of dog cloning does make the former a possibility. And the fact that cat cloning runs half the cost of dog cloning may make it more palatable or enticing.

People who love technology certainly feel more comfortable about cloning. For instance, those who own or intend to own smart security devices are a bit more likely to approve of cloning deceased animals—and three times more likely to approve of cloning pets—than those who aren’t interested in this technology. Self-dubbed digital device addicts are the same.

Lastly, those who think favorably about virtual reality tend to be more accepting of cloning, too. Thirty-two percent of adults who believe VR will stick around in the future believe cloning a deceased animal is fine—four times the amount who think VR is a fad that will pass. The same holds true for cloning pets. Depending on your point of view, this might make a certain bit of sense: cloning a pet could represent a way of coping with death—or an attempt to escape its reality. 

Just how much pet cloning makes its way into the mainstream is far from decided, though the road to mass acceptance seems more likely to be paved in kitty litter than dog kibble. Still, the price has yet to become affordable for everyone and not all pet owners are comfortable with the idea. Dog owners are particularly hesitant. Yet, as the data show, younger generations are more open to the idea of cloning deceased animals in general. With pet ownership rising and technology becoming more pervasive, it will be interesting to see how much, if any, our views change.

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