Should We Be Making Lilac Dogs and Glowing Bunnies?

Jeff Campbell discusses how we're creating hybrids and clones and what it means.


·         Animal welfare must guide all our efforts with genetic engineering, whether for science, medicine, agriculture, or conservation.

·         Genetic engineering gives the ability manipulate anything with DNA in almost any way.

·         Whether bioengineering is good or bad depends on how we choose to use it.


Reviewed by Michelle Quirk, Psychology Today  

July 28, 2022


When I read Jeff Campbell's thought-provoking, beautifully illustrated book Glowing Bunnies!?: Why We're Making Hybrids, Chimeras, and Clones, I couldn't put it down. In his riveting discussions of how we are bioengineering a wide variety of unnatural organisms, some call them monsters, my brain couldn't stop imagining future scenarios of what it all means—is it inherently "good" or "bad" or somewhere in between?


Jeff's important easy-to-read book vividly demonstrates why animal welfare must guide all our efforts with genetic engineering, whether for science, medicine, agriculture, or conservation. There are many important ethical questions that require us to dig deeply into why we are engaging in these experiments and who really benefits. These include the following: Are we making animal lives better when we fiddle with them or only our own lives? Are we acting with care, respect, and compassion? Are we moving too fast?


Glowing Bunnies!? understandably is receiving well-deserved accolades and is at once entertaining, thoughtful, and packed with information, and should be required reading not just for students but for everyone because genetic engineering might rapidly become business as usual.1


Here's what Jeff had to say about his well-referenced, wide-ranging, and in some ways frightening discussions of what we're doing and what it means to be manufacturing these living beings for our humancentric purposes.


Marc Bekoff: Why did you write Glowing Bunnies!?


Jeff Campbell: I stumbled onto the topic of animal bioengineering almost by accident, while writing my previous book, Last of the Giants, which profiles recently extinct and endangered animals. What I found is that for certain species—like aurochs, passenger pigeons, and woolly mammoths—extinction isn’t the end of the story anymore. Researchers are bringing all three species back from the dead, and there are more on the way, even possibly a dinosaur!


Turns out, science fiction isn’t fiction anymore, and as I explored genetic engineering further, I was truly blown away. I know it sounds like hyperbole, but to me, current gene editing technologies are equivalent to splitting the atom—bioengineering is that significant. We now have the ability to manipulate all life, anything with DNA, in almost any way we want. Yet as a society, we are only just starting to discuss what it is, what it can do, the best ways to use it, and most of all, whether we should. So I became very passionate about wanting to write a book that explores these questions.


In general, with my animal science books, I hope to inspire a sense of wonder and compassion for other species as well as a deep appreciation for how much we depend on animals. We need to care for animals for their own sakes, but also for ours and the planet’s sake, too. That has never been more true than with bioengineering.


MB: Who is your intended audience?


JC: The publishing category is young adult. My aim is to make bioengineering accessible to nonscientists, and I hope the book will appeal to readers from middle school through to adults. Glowing Bunnies!? isn’t about technology, per se, though I provide simple explanations of how gene editing works. It’s about bioethics. I want readers to ask, "Given what we can do, what should we do?" That’s a surprisingly complex question, with no single right answer, and I don’t try to provide answers. I want readers to consider animal bioengineering for themselves and come to their own conclusions.


MB: What are some of your major messages? …


MB: Are you hopeful that as people learn more about genetic engineering, they will be more willing to consider it? ...


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