Humans have often taken on bigger roles as the dominant species on Earth. In the past centuries, we’ve tried to control and domesticate various animal species as pets, teaching them to be docile and live according to our preference. Humans have also in a way tried ‘playing God’ by experimenting in a multitude of methods to create new animals through breeding that either suit our needs or to just prove their ability to do so. The latter has been amply portrayed in Hollywood blockbusters.
In the Planet of the Apes franchise, Caesar, a key protagonist was engineered by humans to be smarter than the average ape While the Jurassic Park series show even more menacing outcomes. In Jurassic World, the DNA from various dinosaurs, amphibians, and reptiles was mixed to create the Indominus Rex in a bid to thrill and appeal visitors with bigger and different.
Thankfully real-world counterparts are not so unfriendly as humans have engineered the creation of animals like teacup piglets, new breeds dog, and horses.
Teacup piglets are miniature-sized pigs meant as pets or for medical research. However, those who attempted to domesticate them as pets had to contend with the pig’s size and required a diet.
In 2015, CBS News revealed that teacup pigs were being abandoned across the country as their owners were failing to feed their pigs adequate food to keep them healthy. As sellers told buyers these pigs could live on a restricted diet, they were fed I limited quantities and ended up raiding pantries or garbage cans to seek more food and consequently growing to unexpected sizes and weights. Apparently, teacup pigs require specially-made food to maintain their small size as potbellied pig chow and grass causes them to swell up to almost 120 pounds.
Even dogs have been bred to produce better hunters and herders earlier and better pets and show dogs in present days. For example, pugs and French bulldogs are undoubtedly cute but face the risk of having respiratory problems due to canine disease known as Brachycephalic syndrome. A 2013 study investigating the disease revealed Brachycephalic dogs struggle in exercising and sleeping while being susceptible to overheating in temperatures above 19 degrees Celsius (66 degrees Fahrenheit).
Horses are one of the better examples of humans defining the traits they’re born with and has gone beyond horses bred for racing. New Scientist finds that certain breeds such as Arab horses, have “dished” faces that have grown in popularity in the U.S. But this physical trait comes with a dipped nose that can possibly cause respiratory problems. A 9-month old Arabian colt named El Rey Magnum RCF has been bred to define this trait even further.
UK equine expert Tim Greet told the Veterinary Record that such a deformed nose like El Rey’s is a more significant alteration for a horse than a person or a dog as it can only breathe through its nose. Presently, El Rey has shown no signs of breathing issues during his examination by a veterinarian.
Jonathan Pycock, equine reproduction expert and president of the British Equine Veterinary Association, said, “The problem comes when you breed for particular looks and when those looks are detrimental to the horse’s health,” “In my book, that is fundamentally wrong. This is a worrying development.”
To counterbalance the practice, it’s been proposed that people be educated on the potentially damaging effects that accompany breeding specific traits into animals. New Scientist reports that the British Veterinary Association provides guidelines that describe how advertisers and sellers use animals for their products and events. It is yet to be seen if this will have any impact or not.
Extreme breeding and engineering of animals need to be addressed before it reaches morally questionable standards. Just a desire for a cuter pig or faster horse cannot come at the expense of the animal itself.