Today I happened to overhear a child asking their parents for a new dog, and this boy wanted to give this animal the same name as one that had passed away a few months ago. The father had mentioned that they might look at getting another dog soon, but said nothing about the name.
This is not the first time I've heard of this situation, and it makes me wonder if most people view animals as some sort of subjective life form that does not warrant the same respect that is given to humans on their passing.
There has been talk of using the technology of cloning to offer a "carbon copy" of a deceased animal. On hearing this, I was quite shocked that any family would want to consider this option when bringing a pet into the home. Dealing with the loss of a loved one (be they animal or human) is something each one of us must learn to do. The grieving process is crucial to our well being after such losses. I would think that outright replacing the deceased with another that looks just the same (without the memories, of course) would be incredibly disrespectful.
Would this not also teach our children that life is no different than any other commodity?
Your cat Fluffy died after 12 years? That's okay, make a clone and call that replacement Fluffy. The first one lived 12 years, so maybe this one will give you just as much time. Then just go on with your life without thinking about the temporary loss of your cat.
Your child died in a horrible car accident? That's okay, too. Make a clone and give them the same name. You already have everything you need to start over, right?
"But isn't that heartless?" you ask. Not at all! If you've never had to deal with permanent loss of a loved one, then this is no more different than the temporary inconvenience of having your car stolen. After some paperwork, you get a new car and continue your life with yet another story to tell.
I'll admit that one can more easily get over the loss of a cat or car than the horrible tragedy of losing a child, but if we allow our kids to think it's okay to "get a new one and give it the same name", would that lead to their understanding that life does not need to be cherished? Looking at this from a human perspective, how would someone feel if they heard someone say "I liked the first version of you better" ?
In the next 20 years, I'm quite certain that technology will allow science to make clones and rapidly age them to the point required. This would be incredibly useful when someone needs a replacement heart or lung. If the cloned tissue or organ is made from the person that needs it, there would be no chance of rejection. What an exciting area of science!
But could this apply to entire bodies as well?
When someone's middle-aged animal runs across the street and gets hit by a car, will the animal be cloned and aged to the point of the accident as a replacement for the family? I sincerely hope not.
I really hope the child from this morning is taught that we can't just replace a member of the family with someone else and move on. We need to cherish the time we had with that loved one and keep it close to our heart. When someone new is brought in (whether it's human or not), they can't be expected to act as a replacement. They need their own name. They need their own identity. They need to be given the same respect that we want for ourselves.
We've already created enough of a throw-away society. Let's not throw away our loved ones, too.