Bioethical Aspects of Creating Transgenic Animals

The use of farm animals for the production of human pharmaceuticals raises difficult animal welfare issues. Does the benefit of biopharming to humans justify the use of animals for this purpose? What about products that improve the quality of human life but are not essential? Will genetic engineering cause more suffering among the newly created animals? For example, should transgenic animals be used to model chronic human diseases such as cancer and cystic fibrosis?

For example, animal-welfare advocates, such as the British group Uncaged, have raised strong ethical objections to the use of pigs for xenotransplantation. They note that pigs are highly intelligent and social animals, and that efforts to eliminate PERVs would require raising them in isolated, sterile environments that would cause the animals emotional and psychological suffering and would result in abnormal behavioral development.

At many universities, a committee ensures the humane treatment of laboratory animals and oversees the ethical implications of research projects. But according to Gary Comstock, coordinator of the agricultural bioethics program at Iowa State University, agriculture is years behind other professions such as law and medicine in addressing ethical concerns.