Book Review – Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts by Emily Anthes

By Robert Simon

The author discusses the rise of biotechnology of animal manipulation from the Glofish (modified Zebra Fish with six new colors) (see – ) through the cloning of a wealthy individual’s favorite dog.

The author is a science writer whose work has appeared in Wired, Scientific American Mind, Psychology Today, SEED, Discover, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Slate, New York, Miller-McCune, Good, Foreign Policy, The Boston Globe, among others according to

The popular press has reviewed the book as follows:
“But despite the hubris and opportunism she so skillfully describes, Ms. Anthes still comes down in favor of genetic modification of animals.” — Katherine Bouton, New York Times

“[Frankenstein’s Cat is] far more than just a fascinating read about animal manipulation. As it touches the third rail of ‘manipulating Nature,’ which seems to irritate non-religious liberals as much as evangelicals, its implications go far beyond controversies associated with animal biotechnology to the ethics of “positive eugenics” in humans. [Anthes] colorfully explores all the fascinating and in some cases gruesome ways humans are reshaping the animal kingdom . . . she thoughtfully pleas for reasoned contemplation and discussion rather than knee jerk reactions.”

“In a fascinating romp through laboratories, barns, and pet stores, science journo Emily Anthes interviews the innovators pushing biological limits, and offers elegant explanations of neuroscience and genetics.”
—Ryan Jacobs, Mother Jones

“Genetically engineered glow-in-the-dark fish for your fish tank. Cyborg beetles concocted by the Defense Department. Five hundred different strains of transgenic mice caged in a Chinese laboratory. Science journalist Emily Anthes has a knack for ferreting out such eyebrow-raising specimens, and she makes the details of her complex subject matter highly readable in Frankenstein’s Cat.”
—The Washington Post

What are the “ethics” of genetic modification of animals (as opposed to selective breeding)? The scientific literature is ripe with discussion on numerous fora about the practice. Dr. Matthias Kaiser has a detailed discussion almost a decade old (2003). . The PEW initiative on food and biotechnology held a workshop in 2005 at which the “moral and Ethical Aspects of Genetically Engineered and Clones Animals” was discussed. . Chad West of Texas Tech School of Law wrote in the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology a considerable study of the practice in 2006 coming down in favor of the practice. . The Canadian Veterinary Journal in May 2011 published a differing view from our North American peers in which a call is sent out seeking increased vigilance and monitoring of animal welfare in the research setting. . Our Australian colleagues set out an higher bar for overcoming the “ethical and logistical challenges” of genetic modification in a paper presented at the 6th World Congress on Alternatives & Animal Use in Life Sciences.

We as skilled advocates should become involved in this discussion while it is evolving and it appears that the United States executive branch agencies are favoring a more careful approach to animal research which is more respectful of our mammalian companions (if not so careful with crop modifications). There are several active discussion sites which would benefit from our participation:

Policymic –
Debate.ORG –

Get involved or get left behind.

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