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Looking at Declawing Through New Lens

Moral discomfort trumped by social framework at feline veterinary hospital

Moral discomfort trumped by social framework at feline veterinary hospital

The scientific literature is full of studies on the technical pros and cons of declawing, but a University of Wisconsin researcher has reexamined the practice through a decidedly stickier lens: the complex arena of human attitudes and morality. Published under the title “Death or Declaw: Dealing with Moral Ambiguity in a Veterinary Hospital” (Society & Animals, Vol. 13, Issue 4), the study by Dana Atwood-Harvey included nine months of ethnographic fieldwork in a feline veterinary hospital and interviews with 11 staff members.

The hospital’s policy was to provide declawing upon request. Although the owner, a veterinarian, did not feel that this medical procedure was “ideal,” he deferred to his clients and chose to refrain from making any recommendations for or against the surgery. But a number of staff members expressed discomfort with declawing and with their participation, whether direct or indirect, in such procedures. The resulting discrepancy between personal values and occupational demands was bridged by two primary strategies, the author concluded: collective accounting schemes and organizational support structures.

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