Archive for October 18th, 2011
South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk unveiled his latest cloning achievement yesterday – eight cloned coyotes, created by inserting the nuclei of coyote skin cells into harvested dog eggs.
The coyotes were presented to a wild animal shelter at Pyeongtaek, 35 miles south of Seoul, in a ceremony chaired by Gyeonggi province governor Kim Moon-Soo, Yahoo News reports.
The project was sponsored by the provincial government.
Hwang, whose feats and frauds are recounted in my book, “Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Man’s Best Friend,” is a former Seoul National University scientist who was fired when some of his research into creating human stem cells from a cloned embryo was found to be faked.
He was also head of the SNU research team that produced Snuppy, the world’s first cloned dog, in 2005.
I met Hwang in 2009, but wasn’t allowed to interview him, when I visited his private laboratory outside of Seoul. That’s where I took the photo of him above, after being invited to watch a dog cloning procedure.
By then, Hwang had left SNU, started his own lab and was cloning dogs for an American company that had auctioned off dog clonings to pet owners online.
The American company later went out of business, citing, among other things, animal welfare concerns and the relatively small market for dog cloning — it at the time costing $150,00 or so.
In addition to Hwang’s lab, another Korean company, RNL Bio, continues to clone dogs for pet owners, government agencies, and for medical use.
Hwang enjoyed international fame for a few years after successfully cloning the world’s first dog and for his research into human stem cells.
But his reputation was tarnished in 2005 when allegations surfaced that he had violated medical ethics by using human eggs from his own researchers. He was also found to have embezzled funds and faked some of his findings.
Despite that, he still had enough support to establish his own lab, in the mountains outside Seoul, where, while banned from further research invovling cloning human embryos, he was permitted to continue his research into canine cloning
In 2009 he received a two-year suspended sentence for embezzling research funds and ethical lapses in obtaining human eggs. Last December an appeals court reduced the penalty to an 18-month suspended sentence.
To clone a coyote, Hwang took cells from the skin of a coyote, and transplanted their nuclei into enucleated dog eggs. An electric jolt was applied to lead the cells to begin dividing, after which the eggs were implanted into surrogate mother dogs.
The first coyote clone was born on June 17.
The Gyeonggi governor praised Hwang and said further cloning projects were in the works: “The cloning of an African wild dog is under way, and we will attempt to clone a mammoth in the future,” he said.
(Photo by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cells, cloned, clones, cloning, coyote, coyotes, dog, dog inc., dogs, fraud, gyeonggi, human embryos, hwang woo suk, mammoth, pets, province, research, science, seoul national university, snuppy, south korea, stem cells
In the virtual world, you can, with a few well-placed clicks, pick your house, your car, your clothes, your physique, hair style and persona.
You can go out for a night on the town, in the setting of your choice, looking for love, or a fight, or any of thousands of other adventures — all of which are under your control.
Or you can spend a quiet evening at virtual home with your virtual pet — like a Panda-chow, or a tiger-husky, whose behavior, traits, appearance and even species combination are all changeable at your whim.
The video above is a preview for Sims 3 Pets, hitting the market today.
At the risk of sounding like an old man (one can’t criticize video games or apps without sounding like an old man), at the risk of being told by countless commenters that it’s only a game (yes, I realize that), I find it bothersome (and I don’t just mean that annoying narration).
In a way, I find what Sims 3 Pets does with dogs and cats nearly as troubling as that dogfighting app that led to so much controversy.
It’s a reflection of the same wrongheaded (in my view) mindset that we can do whatever we want to with dogs as long as it (A) entertains us, (B) makes money, (C) makes our lives easier, or (D) is done in the name of science.
It’s that mindset that leads to dogs as fashion accessories, dogs being abandoned when fads change, cruel laboratory experiments, greyhound racing, dogfighting, puppy mills, over breeding and, yes, cloning.
It’s thinking that dogs and all animals exist to serve our whims — however fleeting, selfish or bizarre those whims may be.
“Lighten up dude, it’s just a video game,” you might say. “It’s just a fantasy.”
And you’d have a point.
But (A) experimenting with and exploiting dogs doesn’t just happen in video games; and (B) Sims is not really the target of my tirade, for the game is just the latest rendition of a recurring theme in our society.
Of course, if it weren’t for man’s self-serving tinkering, we wouldn’t have dogs at all. It was man that shaped the wolf into all the diverse shapes and sizes we have now — and I’m not for doing away with any of them.
But somewhere — at least in real life, if not in video games — all the tinkering needs to stop.
We don’t need tiger-retrievers, or panda-chows — whether it’s the result of creative hair-styling and dye jobs, or inter-species experiments, or cell manipulation.
We don’t need robot dogs, or gladiator dogs, or fluorescent dogs, or dogs so inbred that they are unhealthy caricatures of themselves, or dogs created in a laboratory from the harvested cells of a deceased pet.
We don’t need to reinvent the dog, redesign the dog, ressurect the dog or even fine tune the dog. It’s fine as it is, and much of man’s meddling — whether it’s to make dogs more predictable, produce look-alike, act-alike cookie cutter versions of them, or invent new versions that are low-drool or non-allergenic — is an insult to that.
It’s even more of an arrogant pursuit when you stop and consider that the species that probably needs the most work is us. Maybe it’s our inability to control what happens among our fellow humans that makes us so prone to inflicting control over dogs, nature, or whatever else we can.
Here is something I said before, somewhere: If there is even a remote chance of controlling something, humans wanted to control it, preferably remotely.
In Sims 3 Pets, players can create and control over a hundred different kinds of cats and dogs, and can breed and share them with friends providing endless possibilities to create “new and exciting” breeds.
One can customize the pet’s coat, shape, pattern, color; the size of its ears, tail, snout, eyes, and more. You can also choose their behavior pattern, traits and control their bodily functions.
Dogs can even get jobs and make money.
And most creepy of all, pets can be shaped via virtual interspecies breeding, resulting in skunk-cats and panda-chows.
(If you think mixing species, fluorescent dogs and cloning are too far fetched to ever happen, I’d refer you to my book, DOG, INC.: the Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend. They all already have.
It would be too much to ask, given that pesky First Amendment and all, that gamemakers refrain from virtual interspecies breeding.
But wouldn’t it be nice if we could somehow limit all forms of novelty dogs — and other bad human concepts like war — to the confines of computerized games?
Unfortunately, that seems out of our control.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, breeding, breeds, cloned, cloning, control, creating, design, designer, dog, dog inc., dogfighting, dogs, domain, experiments, fluorescent, game, greyhound racing, interspecies, laboratory, manipulation, mindset, nature, novelty, over breeding, panda-chow, pets, robot, SIMS, SIMS Pets, SIMS Pets 3, simulation, tiger-husky, tinkering, video game, virtual, whims
Another truckload of dogs have been saved from being slaughtered and sold in restaurants after a standoff between a dog trader and animal activists over the weekend in China.
Two animal protection organizations paid about $13,000 to a dog trader in Southwest China’s Sichuan province to rescue nearly 800 dogs that were due to be delivered to restaurants, China Daily reports.
The deal was reached in the city of Zigong on Saturday night after two-days of negotiations.
The Sichuan Qiming Companion Animal Protection Center (SCAPC), a Chengdu-based animal welfare organization, and the Love of Home Animal Rescue Center (LHARC) in Chengdu raised the funds.
In exchange, the dog trader, Tang Daguo, has promised to give up dog trading.
Supporters were rallied after an animal activist saw caged dogs being loaded on two trucks in a village on Friday evening. One truck with about 500 dogs pulled away, but they managed to stop the second one.
The dog trader refused to release the dogs and asked for money. Eight dogs died in the cages during the standoff, which lasted well into Saturday.
The dogs are now being cared for by the SCAPC and LHARC in Chengdu.
A volunteer said most of the dogs are in poor health after two days without food and water, and some have broken legs as a result of being crammed in cages. At least two of the dogs turned out to be stolen from owners.
In April, animal activists stopped a truck carrying 520 dogs on the Beijing-Harbin Highway and, after a 15-hour standoff, paid 100,000 yuan to save them from being butchered and sold as meat.
(Photo by Chuan You / China Daily)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: activists, animal welfare, chengdu, china, dog trader, dogs, freed, love of home animal rescue, paid, rescued, restaurants, saved, sichuan, sichuan qiming companion animal protection center, slaughter, standoff, truck, zigong