The Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act, which was recently signed into law in England, has raised concerns about the welfare of pets. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has warned that this act, which allows for creating and marketing of genetically modified plants and vertebrate animals, including pets, could lead to the creation of cats and dogs with powerful features. The RSPCA expressed concerns about the act, citing that editing an animal’s genome involved procedures that could cause pain, suffering, distress and lasting harm. The animal welfare charity also pointed out that this technology can cause unintended changes to the genome, which can have unpredictable effects.
David Bowles, head of campaigns and public affairs at the RSPCA, criticized the policy, saying that “gene editing could be a huge step backwards for animals. We do not believe this act should include animals, whether they are farm, pet or wildlife”. Bowles added that there had been no public consultation on gene editing of non-farm animals, and there is no justification for non-farm animals to be covered by the act.
The UK environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey, described the act as a “Brexit freedom,” which would allow farmers to grow drought- and disease-resistant crops, reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and breed animals that are protected from catching harmful diseases. The act received royal assent on Thursday, and Coffey stated that the government would take a “step-by-step” approach when releasing the regulatory framework that goes with the act.
However, the RSPCA expressed concern that demand for cats and dogs with outer appearances could lead to breeders using gene editing to create pets with these characteristics. The animal welfare charity also warned that invasive procedures are needed to make each line of gene-edited mammals, and there is no history of use for this powerful technology.
The RSPCA has urged the government to include a pet exemption and expressed severe animal welfare and ethical concerns about the act. The charity’s spokesperson, Bowles, has stated that by including all vertebrate animals in this legislation, the UK government is opening Pandora’s box of what could be allowed in the future.
As animal lovers and pet owners, it is our responsibility to ensure the welfare and safety of our furry companions. We must stay informed about the potential impacts of new laws and technologies on our pets and speak out when necessary. We can Support animal welfare organizations such as the RSPCA and urge our governments to prioritize animal welfare when enacting new laws and regulations. By raising awareness and taking action, we can work towards creating a better future for all animals, including our beloved pets.
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