Week 2: Genetic Engineering + Animals

In regards to Wednesday’s lecture, something that really stood out to me was the poor treatment of animals. Firstly, animals such as rats and rabbits are used for a variety of testing reasons against their will. What was the most shocking to me was that animal testing still occurs, even if a cosmetic company’s packaging and messaging says that they aren’t, due to a legal loophole. While beauty brands can say they don’t test on animals, products can be subject to animal testing requirements in other countries regardless, most often referring to China.[1] At least for me, this has really shaken my trust with a lot of my favorite beauty brands and products, and I’ve gone on a deeper search to figure out which products I use are actually cruelty free. Major companies like M.A.C. Cosmetics, Maybelline, CoverGirl, and Estee Lauder all claim they are 100% cruelty free, but this is false.[2]



Furthermore, animals are experimented on for more reasons than just within the cosmetic industry. Within the United States, scientists use approximately 12-27 million animals in research, of which less than 1 million are not rats, birds, fish, or mice.[3] When it comes to using animal testing that is strictly regulated for scientific research and development, I have conflicting views that I’ve been thinking over a lot since Wednesday’s lecture. While cosmetic testing on animals in foreign countries with unregulated procedures is completely morally wrong, I think regulated testing on animals for scientific research purposes is more of a grey area. My only hesitation to claiming it to be completely wrong is simply—what would be the best alternative? The only one that immediately comes to mind is testing on voluntary humans rather than testing on involuntary animals. The aspect of consent is definitely more prioritized here, which is why I lean more towards preferring this alternative over anything else. There are probably a lot of other scientific factors that both support and challenge this alternative, which is something I plan to educate myself in further.


Secondly, while discussing sheep and monkeys, I learned a lot more about cloning than I had previously. The first mammal to be successfully cloned from an adult cell was Dolly the Sheep in 1996.[4] Several cloning instances have occurred since then, most notably the first set of primate clones being created last year. This is when two monkey clones were created in a Chinese laboratory. Additionally, gene-editing took place in babies via CRISPR technology this year.[5] Diving in to the topic of cloning really set my mind on thinking about Jordan Peele’s Us, where—spoiler alert—the United States government experiments with cloning Americans in order to regulate their actions via mind control. It’s interesting how cloning has made it way into pop culture and media, especially it being the premise of Peele’s newest film. Although it is used in a metaphoric sense in Us, it still casts cloning in a negative light. I think that this is the general perception on the act, while in reality the science behind cloning could be extremely beneficial to curing diseases and further developing stem cell research.


[1] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/animal-testing-beauty-industry_n_5b3be34ee4b09e4a8b284996
[2] https://www.theodysseyonline.com/5-makeup-brands-claim-cruelty-free
[3] https://speakingofresearch.com/facts/statistics/
[4] http://dolly.roslin.ed.ac.uk/facts/the-life-of-dolly/index.html
[5] https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/3/13/18261888/crispr-gene-editing-china-babies