Biotech Beasts

frankensteinscat

Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts
Emily Anthes
Oneworld Publications (2013)

Dolphins with prosthetic tails, spy beetles armed with robots, resurrected pets from frozen DNA… You name it, they’re doing it. Scientists from all over the world have been creating animals that fit our whimsical needs. But should we have the power to play god and invent the fauna of the future? And where do we draw the line? What if a mouse could be engineered to prevent it from feeling pain – would this mean animal testing was no longer an issue?

Travelling around the world, Emily Anthes, a journalist and popular science writer, takes the reader on a journey to find out just how humans are inventing bio-techs: new beasts from Dolly the sheep, to clones of an endangered mountain lion, to a ‘pharm’ where chickens are modified to lay eggs laced with cancer-fighting drugs. Frankenstein’s Cat is truly an eye-opening exploration of weird science.

On her journey from petri dish to pet store, Anthes catalogues the wide variety of science’s funny and furry beasts that might one day become commonplace in society. That is if governments, animal activists and the public can decide what should and shouldn’t be allowed in the world of genetic engineering, and what these animals can be used for.

Indeed, throughout the book Anthes explores the ethical and philosophical dilemmas that accompany such research. “There are no easy answers to the ethical dilemmas that biotechnology can pose,” she writes. Not only that, but she makes us question our reasons for doing so: what does this tell us about human nature?

It is a compelling read full of strange surprises, with great personal insight and a very touching sense of humour.

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