"Grow your sneaker" is the advertising slogan of the new Thai footwear company Rayfish offering customised stingray-skin shoes.
Rayfish claims that they have developed a way to genetically mix and match DNA of different animals to grow transgenic stingrays with unique patterns and colours in their skin, tailored to each shoe customer's wish.
Rayfish will then turn each pretty genetically modified stingray into a shoe, selling for around $15,000.00 at the moment.
Dr Raymond Ong, head of RayFish Footwear, explained the process: 'Using the DNA on file in our genetic library from dozens of different species... we identify the genes responsible for color and pattern, and implant the synthetic 'supergene' cluster into fetal rays before they are born. As the ray grows and matures, it expresses the predetermined patterns on its skin.'
He continued 'We cannot breed any desirable shape or logo on the fishes, as our patterning process works by recording and recombining DNA of existing animals. Squares are for instance not possible, as the expression of the DNA on the skin doesn't allow it. The patterns that grow on the actual fish sometimes slightly differ from what you see in the design tool. Although it is almost perfect, we are still developing the mapping between the design tool and the DNA encoding further.'
Despite his very convincing sounding explanations, he hasn't found many believers in the scientific community yet, though.
Randy Lewis, a biologist at Utah State University explained that the idea of "bio-customized" stingray leather would require a huge leap in the ability to manipulate the many genes responsible for color patterns.
"To the best of my knowledge, there is no way to do what they claim both in terms of the colors, as many of those colors on their website have no way to be expressed in the skin, and the ability to completely control the pattern that they imply has not been achieved for any animal."
So scientists are very sceptical and as you can imagine, PETA is furious and disgusted (understandable).
On the 11th of August 2012, animal rights activists apparently broke into the Rayfish stingray breeding farm and rescued all the stingrays and released them into the wild. They have published a rather unconvincing video of their rescue operation.
This obviously means a huge setback for Rayfish who had to inform all of their waiting customers that the production of the shoes will be delayed by at least two months.
The stingrays stay disappeared, apart from one, which has apparently been found dead washed up on the beach.
PETA told MailOnline: 'The idea of breeding and killing neon-patterned stingrays sounds like something out of a horror film. Even though stingrays may not be as familiar to us as the dogs and cats we share our homes with, they have the same capacity to suffer and feel pain. We hope that consumers will make the kind choice to buy products that don't cause the suffering and death of any animal.'
Whilst CEO, Dr. Raymond Ong thinks that "it enriches the product to know an animal lived and died for you" many see breeding genetically engineered stingrays for the sole purpose of turning them into a shoe as unethical.
Not only scientists express their scepticism towards the authenticity of Rayfish. After some further research, I discovered a website called "next nature", Next Nature just published a book about fictional bio tech experiments. In 2010, they called on designers to create "infotizements" about fictional bio tech for the book.The Rayfish Footwear one got included in this book.
So is Rayfish just a hoax created by the people at next nature, is it a fantastically smart campaign against genetic modification, a viral marketing campaign for something like a film or game, or a social experiment?
Or is it another example of inhuman treatment of animals to put on the pile?
Rayfish on facebook
Sources:dailymail, livescience, vice, reddit