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This is an issue that is going to recur over and over on a site like this. The status of Animal Rights varies enormously from country to country. For this purpose, I am not saying that one country is better than another or one is right and one is wrong, but that we have users here with different cultural perspectives.

I am using this question (which I think is a good question) as an example:

When is declawing a viable option for cats?

I answered, my answer was firm, but clear (maybe it is too harsh, which is why it was downvoted) You must understand, some of the things people may ask about could cause others to be arrested if they were practiced in their country. So it must be appreciated that for some people, it is the equivalent to asking a question

Should I commit animal abuse?

The thing that concerns me about this, is it is a global community, man practices that some countries accept, my other communities recoil in horror. Which I believe is part of the problem with community harmony on the Internet.

What sort of community do we want? A truly global community? I, personally, think all communities need a voice and shouldn't be downvoted. In a case where the majority of users may be North American, where a practice is legal, how can the community help to include people from other communities, rather than downvote and risk excluding the minorities further.

How do we want to deal with these types of questions and answer?

How to we cope with these global differences?

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    I suspect that the down vote is to express disagreement that the answer really answers the question. It is kind of less and answer and more a positional statement by an organization and to point out it being illegal in some places. You can infer morality from that, I suppose, but it kind of dances around the question a bit. – John Cavan Oct 11 '13 at 10:46
  • @JohnCavan good point. The tile is When is declawing considered an ethical option, if at all?. You cannot open the ethical debate any more overtly really?? – user87 Oct 11 '13 at 10:55
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    I'm ethically against it myself, but my problem with the question is that, for the most part, it's really an opinion ask. It may be a good one to ask, in this case, to establish a bit of a community personality with respect to treatment of our companions but ethics and morality questions are intrinsically opinions framed by the current culture of the person responding. – John Cavan Oct 11 '13 at 11:01
  • @JohnCavan exactly! that's why I'm airing it.. I don't want to put people off, but we also need to decide as a community how we manage this.. will we lose prospective users or do we have system in place to handle it, so all perspectives are aired? – user87 Oct 11 '13 at 11:08
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I think we try the best we can to encompass as many viewpoints as possible, and incorporate them into answers as appropriate. You are right, there are countries where declawing is illegal, but there are also countries where it isn't, so having multiple viewpoints is good in this case, and in other cases where there are legal ramifications to pet care and ownership.

I think the important thing to remember is that we are all here because we care for our pets and we all want what is best for them, and I think if we go into this with an assumption of good faith and positive intent, it should work out well.

I know we might get cases where a practice is considered "acceptable" in some places and animal cruelty in others, but I think if we assume that no one actively wants to hurt their pet, it is a good start. Education is always better than just getting angry, after all. If we can point out, without getting angry, why we feel things aren't okay or acceptable, and back it up with research or data when possible, it will go a long way to making everyone feel comfortable and safe asking their questions here.

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    This is good. Paraphrased, "Assume good faith then work from there". – Tim Post Oct 11 '13 at 5:27
  • I actually up voted the question because I disagree with declawing and because the answers were all against it. SE gets a lot of Google traffic. I would actively welcome these questions so that people who think of declawing their cats get to this site first and realise it is not only ethically dubious but also has serious health implications for their cat. It might make people a lot more likely to refrain from such practices if this is what they see first on a Google search. – ThomasH Oct 11 '13 at 12:02
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I think you hit the core problem yourself, what is commonly accepted in one culture is not acceptable in another.

Things like

  • Declawing cats, very common in the US (according to wikipedia 25% of cars are declawed), but illegal in some jurisidctions here, and looks to be illegal in a few other countires
  • Docking the tail or cropping the ears of a dog, again very common for specific breeds, but is now illegal in many countries, but not yet in the US.
  • Dog fighting (or animal fighting in general) - typically these would not be "pets" so hopefully they won't come up, but this is another practice that is illegal and/or distasteful in many countries, but some countries and cultures actively participate in it.
  • Using a shock collar for training
  • Using corporal punishment to train a dog
  • and I could go on for weeks

I think it is important to avoid reacting with our personal opinions on such, especially in the answers. This simple fact is someone might not actually understand why such a practice is not good for the animal and a calm and objective answer giving the facts is appropriate.

That being said, if we do allow these questions (and I'm not advocating that we not allow them), we will have to understand that the questions themselves will be somewhat argumentative and opinionated because everyone will have a different viewpoint. It might be necessary to step in and try to clean up such posts to focus on objective answers and not "you must hate you dog since you docked his tail" type answers.

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I think opinion questions like this are problematic, and how much the more so when a moral or ethical position is involved. Instead of "is it ethical to do X" I would much rather see "what are the arguments for and against X" -- remove the value judgement from the question and just ask what the considerations are.

I didn't vote to close immediately because I wanted to see if we could work it out in the comments there, but I have now cast that vote.

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