Today in the class that I TA, we spent a lot of time discussing elective surgeries on animals and the various things that happen to both small and large animals. The idea was to get the class thinking and discussing what makes a surgery ok, or acceptable, and what doesn't.
Of course, beyond the agricultural processes (some of which I agree with and some, like tail-docking of dairy cattle which serves no scientific purpose I do not support), this also led to ethical considerations in pets. We talked about the de-clawing process and how this actually removes a bit of the bone from each digit on a cat and destroys their ability to act on their instincts.
Of course, if you were to ask animal rights activists what they thought about cat de-clawing, they'd probably not give you an answer. They don't want involved in a sticky issue like that. Of course, they might say that they think it is a wrong-doing towards the animal but they are much more concerned with letting domesticated livestock loose to be free in the wild (even though they will die from inability to care for themselves) than helping pet owners better understand the alternatives to de-clawing.
I'm not saying I disagree with the de-clawing process, of course. I actually think it is a great option if you can't find another way to prevent your cat from tearing up the furniture, and especially if that cat will not end up outside or abandoned later, struggling to cope with the fact that its claws can't help feed it or protect it anymore. Instead, what I am saying is that there are painful procedures which go on all around us in the world today. Some of these are more obvious, like the dehorning of calves or castration of pigs. But these can be necessary procedures, just like the de-clawing of a troublesome cat. These procedures all serve to protect other animals that might be in proximity of the cows, or pigs, or housecat.
We're all in this together, and at some point, reason must prevail. We can't just keep thinking that what we do makes sense to everyone else. If we don't speak up, eventually it will be too late to state our opinion. I know you hear this all the time, but it really is important not only to figure out what you think on critical animal care issues, but then to help educate those around you. If you need an example of how ridiculous some people can get, just look at this: