The demise of the McClones

May 2012

Sign outside Newmeadow farm, Auldearn, Scotland.
Photo W. L. Tarbert (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (
or GFDL (], via Wikimedia CommonsPhoto 
What happened to the McClone clan which came to light in 2010? This clan was a Scottish herd of Holstein milking cows who were apparently the granddaughters of an American cow's ear (see A FEW BUILT-IN PROBLEMS WITH CLONED ANIMALS - GMFS News Archive, November 2010, and McCLONES - July 2011).

The story so far is difficult to piece together from the patchy, and sometimes muddled, information appearing in the press, but it runs something like this...

In 2005, some cells were removed from a single Holstein cow. The nuclei (genetic material) of these cells were inserted into egg-cells which had been removed from a second cow. The cobbled-together eggs were placed in the womb of a third cow to grow into calves. About two years later, one of these cloned calves and a Holstein bull managed to produce a batch of male embryos which were sold abroad.

Two embryos were bought by a Scottish farmer who put them into a (fourth) cow to grow into calves. A couple of years later, two sons-of-a-clone were used to create a herd of 96 Holstein dairy cows. The two bulls were slaughtered.

The Holstein breed society, Holstein UK, seems to have indicated that there are another four similar clone grandchildren in the UK which may have come originally from the same cloned American cow.

Part two of the story is equally difficult to fathom:

The Scottish farmer has now realised that the fact of the Food Standards Agency's decision that (after much dithering) even though the use of clones posed no legal problem it didn't make them acceptable to consumers. He has now slaughtered 42 of them, sold 31 to Portugal, and is trying to find something to do with the remaining 23.


Since cloning is very inefficient and expensive, the main reason for it has always been the possibility of incorporating a few extra, patented, man-made genes during the cloning procedure. Add to this that GM milking animals make attractive chemical factories on four legs. Failure at the first hurdle of gaining public acceptance is therefore very good news for the purity of our food chain.

The amount of slaughter and invasive procedures carried out on young animals in the above account is shocking, and completely unnecessary. Factor in the ill-health likely to be associated with genetic transformation on top of that of cloning, and the animal death and suffering becomes even worse.

The McClone saga is intriguing for the questions it fails to answer. For example, what was wrong with the 42 young cows which were slaughtered? Are the clone-granddaughters destined for Portugal going to be hush-hush there? Are we eating produce from the mystery four Holsteins somewhere else in the UK?

If you hear anything, please pass it on to us.

  • Katia Moskvitch, Are meat and milk from cloned cattle safe? BBC News 4.08.10
  • Sean Poulter, Farmer ditches his plan for clone milk and sells off cows after 'Frankenstein' outcry, Daily Mail 6.04.12

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