The Ethics of Cloning: An Interview With Donald Jacklin

By Rania Alrashoodi


Midwestern Gem


Donald Jacklin worked with the University of Idaho to fund the very first mule clone; Idaho Gem. Born in Moscow, Idaho, to Arden and Ann Laurie Jacklin, Donald dedicated his life to rigorously challenging himself in a rural world, choosing to explore everything animals and nature had to offer. These earthly simplicities always intrigued him, and despite natures mind cleansing quality, he wanted to investigate the complications in such cathartic beings and settings.


Shortly after he was born, Jacklin’s parents moved to Spokane Valley, which is where he was raised with his sister, and two brothers, one of which was his identical twin.  The family also had two rabbits, and one dairy cow, which he and his twin were responsible for milking. At a young age he was able to nurture an appreciation for animals and understand how to raise them to benefit lives. Despite this, Jacklin claims to have grown up embodying a rebel in a religious family, claiming to always be chasing girls. He and his twin brother, Doyle, use to get in trouble tricking people by pretending to be each other, going to each other’s classes and swapping girlfriends without telling them.  His parents forced him and his twin to always dress the same, which made their tricks far easier to exploit. Essentially, being able to live his life as another person sparked his interest in exploring the realm of duality and two beings with identical genetics.


Born out of Wisconsin, Jacklin’s grandfather was interested in crops and worked as a plant breeder. He was sent to Idaho to breed pea and bean varieties for the Wisconsin canneries. When World War II started, his grandfather, father and two uncles started a dry pea and bean production company to provide food for the military and domestic populations in Dishman, Washington. This company was later called ‘Jacklin Seed Company’, and still exists today.


Once a teenager, Jacklin would work at the company with his twin. While they were eating lunch one day, they spotted a skunk. They chased the skunk and surely enough, were sprayed. This did not stop them; they continued to follow the skunk until they found all four of her babies. They captured these skunks and immediately took them to be deskunked. He and his brother made money selling these skunks to locals as farm pets, and kept one as their own. One night, the pen was not shut securely and their pet skunk escaped. A few days later, Jacklin noticed a fowl skunk like smell and traced it to find his pet skunk had found a new mate, and more babies were eventually born. The Jacklin brothers were able to sell these baby skunks as well as garner experience in business and animal reproduction.  Jacklin also sold these skunks, and learned about business and animal reproduction during his skunk incident.


Living in rural Washington, Jacklin was surrounded by trees, lakes, mountains and wildlife. His family would often spend weekends in the wilderness at his fathers cabin on Lake Pend Orial in Sandpoint, Idaho.  It was on these trips that he began to develop a passion for hunting, spending many hours with his father in the woods. On these trips he would go hunting with his father, where he began to find his passion for hunting. For him, the love of hunting is centered on his desire to accomplish unrealistic goals, and find ways to achieve what seemed impossible. He believes that being around nature is fundamental in life as it is how one can center oneself and find a sense of tranquility. One weekend, he and his brother took his parents horses on a hunting trip; While on the trip, they ran into a man riding a mule and Jacklin was immediately enthralled with the creature. The hunter advised him to look into buying a mule, as they were more efficient for hunting; they could carry more and travel more while having horse like reflects and endurance.


Despite this immediate admiration, Jacklin was graduating high school and was enrolled in the United States Navy, urging him to take a break from his nature inspired life and move to Jacksonville, Florida. He served in the US Navy as an Air Traffic Controller for four years. Jacklin believes that these four years were the most crucial factor in his transition from boy to man. Being in the navy gave him his resilient work ethic as well as his self-discipline.  He claims that the Navy will tear you apart and you have to build yourself back up, or else you are in trouble. One of his older coworkers invited Jacklin over to dinner one night. At that dinner, he met the stepdaughter of his coworker, Dorothy Ford. He says that she is “the most beautiful woman I have ever known.” The two did not waste any time. They drove to Georgia with other navy friends as witnesses and got married. Shortly after, Dorothy gave birth to their first daughter, Dana.  Dorothy already had a daughter, Kim, from a previous marriage, whom Jacklin immediately bonded with and created a relationship. Thus, they began their family.


Both Jacklin and his wife decided that though the Navy gave him positive experiences, it was important for him to return home and work towards a college education. They moved to Pullman, Washington and attended Washington State University, which is only about a fifteen minute drive from Moscow Idaho; the city where Jacklin was born. Jacklin studied Agronomy soil science and crop genetics, with the expectation of running Jacklin Seed Company one day. While studying crop genetics, he was engrossed by genetics and DNA and was eager to work in this field.


While in college, Dorothy became pregnant with twins, Glenn and Gayle, who were born on Dana’s third birthday. Being a twin raising twins only amplified his yearning to learn more about the connection of two people with identical/similar DNA, and explore how he can advance the world through this study. After he received his degree, he moved back to Dishman, Washington to begin working a higher ranked position at Jacklin Seed Company. There, he and Dorothy had their fifth and final child, Laurice.


Jacklin raised his family as Christians. Church was attended on Sundays and religious holidays. The girls were required to keep hair short and were not allowed to grow it past their chins. Dorothy made their clothing; all the girls were to wear skirts or dresses. In addition to this, the girls were not allowed to initiate conversation with any man. They were to wait for a man to approach before they were allowed to converse with them. In addition, his children were expected to tend to the animals, and they all practiced mule riding and competed in rodeo competitions during those seasons. Two of his daughters, Gayle and Laurice, still compete in rodeo and Glenn rides mules on his hunting trips.


By then the war was over, and the Jacklin Seed Company began specializing in the breeding of grass seeds.  While working there, Jacklin journeyed back to his interest in mules. He heard about the biggest mule show, which was in Bishop, California. There, mules competed in poling, packing, riding advance, racing and gymkhana. Jacklin travelled to this show to admire the ability and movement of mules, and after watching Jacklin set a goal for himself; he wanted to create the fastest, most agile mule and travel back to California. In the words of Jacklin, he wanted to “beat their Californian asses!”


On returning home, the family moved to the foothills of Spokane, Washington where they had begun raising animals. It was there that Jacklin he bought his first Mare and began learning about animal breeding. Soon after, he bred her with a donkey to achieve his first mule. He then sought to create a winning mule and deciphered what qualities would be necessary to achieve this aim. First and foremost, the mule had to be beautiful. He noticed that mules with interesting spots and colors were typically the ones that were more expensive, and thought this to be a mandatory quality. Next, the mule must run well and be able to execute tight turns to succeed in barrel racing.  The mule must also have endurance, in the case that she or he is used for packing. Thus, he sold the Jacklin Seed Company and worked with a genetic scientist to help him create the perfect mule.


The experiment began with four trials. He had many sperm samples from one buck, and used these to impregnate four different sizes and breeds of Mares. This variety was complete with an Arabian, a quarter horse, a thoroughbred and a draft horse. He found that the bigger the horse, the bigger the mule was born. Working with the University of Idaho, they gave these Mare’s hormones that rapidly decreased the length of their egg cycle to only 11 days, allowing all four of these mules to be born within only a month and a half. He noticed that the mother with the most adrenaline produced the baby with the most adrenaline, and was able to create some powerful mules. Two of these mules were sent to New Mexico, and one was sent to California to later become a successful mule racer.


His determination to create did not stop there. He had a passion to become the first person to do something- anything. Judging his previous successes with mules, he stuck to what he knows and began the experiment. First, they began the process using the same method used to create Dolly the sheep, but this was unsuccessful. Then, they attempted to use the method used to create the five cloned Scottish Piglets, and this was also unsuccessful. Caught in a predicament, the scientist put forward a wild idea that he thought could work; he wanted to create the first equine clone based on principles related to cancer. A cancerous tumor generates rapid cell division, in turn spawning rapid growth. They were aware that in a cancerous tumor, calcium and zinc increase the pace that the tumor is growing. They decided to add calcium and zinc to the petri dishes to activate rapid growth. Finally, they were successful.


Obviously, there is a lot of controversy regarding the ethics of animal cloning. When asking Jacklin about his opinion on whether he believes that this is ethically right, he had a case ready. He claimed that as long as human cloning isn’t involved, there is nothing ethically wrong with cloning. He talked of the many endangered species in the world and protests that he is attempting to keep the quantity of animals alive through cloning. For example, there is a certain breed of Arabian horse, which runs wild in Saudi Arabia that is slowly becoming extinct. Should we care to save the breed, we would collect the male sperm to keep the breed alive.


In working with mules, Jacklin grew incredibly close to the animal. He claims to have had a personal relationship with each and every one of them, and always tries to get people involved with mules to experience the same love he has. His experience with mule cloning only increases his attachment and love for them.


After the four older children were married, Jacklin moved his barn from Spokane to Rathdrum, Idaho. Though he had sold the Jacklin Seed Company, and it had moved to Idaho, he still worked there. By moving to Idaho he was able to get a larger piece of land to hold all of his animals. His youngest daughter, Laurice Webb, lived in their house with them while raising her new born while her husband joined the United States Army. This allowed Jacklin to help his daughter raise his grandson.


Jacklin currently lives in his home in Idaho.  He owns 30 acres of land surrounding his home, hosting 17 mules. Both cloned mules, Idaho Gem and Idaho Starr, live at this barn too. Jacklin and his wife reside in Palm Springs, California during the winter months to escape the Northern snowfall. Their son and daughter, Glenn and Laurice tend to the animals during the time that they are in California. They are still in close contact with all five of their children. They have thirteen grandchildren and five (soon to be six) great grandchildren; all who claim to be extremely close and loving with their grandfather.

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