Friday, September 16, 2016

Declawing a Cat

Earlier, I wrote about the intrinsic value of an animal's life.

Here, I want to apply those ideas.

Let me take the moral issue of whether it is permissible to declaw a cat.

The declawing of a cat involves the amputation of each "finger" at the first knuckle. If somebody did that to you, you would lose your claws.

Is it wrong to do this to a cat?

Well, we need to look at the reasons that exist for declawing a cat - and the reasons that exist against it - and the quality of those reasons.

We also need to set aside reasons that do not exist.

For example, there is the "unnatural" argument. It is natural for a cat to have claws and removing the claws is unnatural - it is simply wrong. There is an intrinsic "ought not to be doneness" in the act that us the reason not to do it.

These types of reasons do not exist. It is like saying that it is wrong to declaw a cat because doing so would cause extraterrestrial aliens to destroy the earth. Because the claim is untrue, it does not provide a reason for action. A person who believes it may believe that he has a reason for action, and he may choose to act. However, he would be mistaken, and acting for no good (of real) reason.

Consider spaying or neutering a cat. This, too, is a painful medical procedure that utterly destroys a natural function of some part of a cat's biology. An "unnatural" argument would be just as applicable here as well. Yet, we see sufficient reason to have the cat "fixed" to create a harmonious home environmentnn

The cat's interest in avoiding pain certainly provides a real reason for the cat to avoid being declawed. This is a reason that exists. Any human with an aversion to thwarting the desires of others - such as avoiding a cat's desire not to be in pain - has a reason to avoid declawing a cat.

At the same time, an owner's aversion to pain and potential infection - particularly the pain and infection that may come from being clawed by a cat - are also real reasons for action. They are reasons for the human to have the cat declawed.

With respect to the aversion to thwarting the desires of others - the aversion to causing a cat pain - this reason enters into the realm of morality. This is a reason - an aversion - that people generally have reasons to promote. Each of us is safer in a community of others averse to causing pain then we are in a community of individuals indifferent to the pain of others. This gives us many and strong reasons to promote this aversion - specifically by condemning/punishing those who demonstrate indifference to the suffering of others and praising/rewarding those who demonstrate an interest in helping others avoid pain.

Of course, this compassion should also extend to the owners seeking to avoid the pain and possible infections that could result from cat scratches. On this matter, the person with an aversion to others being in pain would be torn between the pain of the cat and the pain of the human.

At the same time, the human's aversion to pain stands outside of morality. Praise and condemnation cannot alter this aversion. Therefore, an assertion to the effect that agents (morally) ought not to be averse to personal pain would be absurd.

Owners also have reasons to be concerned with the well-being of their furniture, clothes, and other things that may be damaged. These are reasons - they are real. To say that such reasons do not exist is to ignore reality. To say that such reasons should not exist - that individuals concerned with the condition of their furniture and clothes deserve condemnation and perhaps punishment - would be a difficult case to make.

Another set of reasons that both the cats and humans have is in a harmonious relationship.

The state of affairs between a cat and its owners is inherently one of conflict. The cat, acting on its natural desires, engages in behavior that thwarts the desires of the owner. The owner, seeking fulfillment of her desires, has reason to act in ways that thwart the desires of the cat. The best way to resolve the conflict is by creating a state of affairs within which each can act on their own desires without disturbing the other. Once the cat is declawed, such a state of affairs obtains.

Cats are going to naturally seek to sharpen their claws. A declawed cat can go through the motions without any reason for stress or interference from the adult. A cat with claws is in a position where acting on this natural desire creates conflict with the owner, requiring discipline, which the cat cannot understand. Similarly, the destructive behavior creates anger, which puts the cat at risk of physical harm.

Now, the aversion to pain is reason to look for less painful alternatives that serve the same wants. Capping the claws seems to be an alternative to declawing. There ought to be reasons to prefer claw caps to declawing - thus fulfilling the desire that others not be harmed.

1 comment:

Hailaga said...

Jesus dude, you have pumped out 100's of posts since 2005. Me too I wrote heavily concerning ethics but it's not like I have a degree in it or anyrhing. My 62posts are considerably humbled. I hope I find the time to put your link on my site tomorrow. The SilentAtheist

Keep it up!