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From Where I Lie: Are Cloned Cows Really Nicer?
Tuesday June 8, 2010
By Larry Johnson
Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Massachusetts, claim they have reproduced 24 cloned cows, which are “normal”. Now I have not taken a moral or ethical position on cloning, although I do believe that cloning cows or humans may be an exercise in overkill. I do, however, take issue with their claim that these cows are normal.
How can you tell?
I was brought up on a farm where we had plenty of cows but, to my knowledge, I never met a normal one. It is, I believe, a contradiction of terms to say that a cow is normal. For that matter, what is a normal human? Both cows and humans are individuals and when we try to reduce the entire herd, in either species, to a definitive average, we are bound to miss the mark.
Now, if we are going to clone cows, I suggest we forget about cloning for “normal” and aim for nice. My experience with cows is quite similar to my experience with humans: there are a few “nice” ones; a few “bad” ones and a mixed-bag (please pardon the intended pun) in the middle.
Most cows, like their human counterparts, have a pecking order. I remember one cow from my youth who was Machiavellian right down to the bottoms of her sharp little hooves, and right to the tips of her pointy long horns. She was ugly as sin and affected a limp that would deceive the unsuspecting into believing that she was handicapped and therefore harmless. Nothing could’ve been farther from the truth. When provoked, or when one of her stomachs was upset, her limp would disappear entirely and she could run like a deer.
More than once Mad Cow nearly horned me in a tender spot and my brother, who was, admittedly, a little slower than me, was nearly, seriously gored by this bovine witch. On my twice daily “Go get the cows” regimen, I nearly came to a bad end when Mad Cow’s “mind-over-matter”, super-insanity would engage and she would, without ostensible provocation, take after me with a vengeance.
On one occasion, Mad Cow chased me into a muddy diversion ditch that ran across our farm, a ditch that drained the low spots and sent muck and water slowly sludging toward Otter Creek. I came out the other side covered with leaches. I remember forgetting my responsibility to the herd and running, screaming in horror to the barn. My father, who rolled his own cigarettes, slowly, and calmly rolled one, lit it and then applied its burning embers to each leach until the blood-sucking, son-of-a-slug disintegrated and dropped off. It seemed like an eternity. I was then instructed to go back and bring the cows the rest of the way to the barn.
Mad Cow nearly pushed the envelope of her indispensability to the bursting point, however, when she somehow got back into the barn after being sent to the night pasture and maliciously gored the bag of a prize cow that was being prepared for Field Days. The cow, as I remember, not only missed going to the annual beauty contest but lost a quarter of her udder and had to be sent to the slaughterhouse.
We all suspected that Mad Cow, whom we sometimes referred to as Lady MacBeth, had done the dark deed, but there was no actual proof, and, so, consequently the matter was dropped.
Mad Cow’s luck began to change, however, as her madness progressed. One day she made death-defying overtures at my father’s rear end, and though he was swift of foot and managed to keep just ahead of her, one of her horns penetrated the back pocket of his favorite bib-overalls, ripping off the pocket and spilling the tobacco that he used to make his cigarettes. Lady MacBeth had gone too far. Like all serial killers, she had tempted fate just once too often.
Peace reigned on the farm after Mad Cow was sent to Death Row. Once again the herd had a few nice cows, a few bad ones and a whole lot who just wanted to eat grass and enjoy the sunshine.
So if we are going to clone cows, or humans for that matter, I highly recommend that we do so with a particular goal in mind. No, we do not need smarter animals. Smarter animals often become CEO’s of large corporations and retire billionaires while the stockholders of those companies go broke and the taxpayers pick up the tab. Also, I don’t believe we need prettier animals. Prettier animals eventually lose their looks and become bitter in middle age. If we are going to clone animals, I believe we should set our sights on nicer and leave it at that.
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