This is about declawing cats again. Please forgive me but this is a timely moment with the release of the new Paw Project movie. I want to find a way to stop the cruelty (for me) of declawing. For an American veterinarian, declawing cats is about profit and loss. It is about hard business. Business profit trumps doing the right thing. The right thing? This must be to not declaw. This is a short look at the influential bits of the money side of the USA veterinary business.
I am not going to look at the accounts of running a veterinary practice in America. I want to look at two things (a) a quick comparison of the salaries between UK and USA veterinarians and (b) the debt racked up by veterinary students. The cost of becoming a veterinarian must be a major factor in how a newly qualified vet thinks and therefore operates. High student debt immediately focuses the mind on money and subjugates ethics to the second tier of priorities.
The starting salary of American vets in 2011 was $46,9711. The starting salary for UK vets in 2011 was (at best) £33,5002 – this is $53,857.95 (U.S. dollars). It is difficult to compare salaries from one country to another but roughly speaking there is not a huge difference. This means that UK veterinary surgeries (businesses) make a similar profit margin to those in the USA. This is a rather imprecise picture but it is a comparison worth making because the British veterinarians make all their money from standard veterinary care excluding declawing cats, while declawing cats is a money spinner in the USA. The point I am making is that American veterinarians can make a decent living without mutilating (declawing) cats.
Second, the cost of veterinary training in the USA is too high and it is climbing much faster than the rise of the average salary of American vets. The newly qualified veterinarian is becoming increasingly burdened with massive and unmanageable debt incurred while being a student. It is becoming untenable to qualify as a vet. This might be because the schools and colleges are becoming too greedy. I am not sure. I hope someone will tell me.
The knock-on effect of the high cost of veterinary education is that newly qualified American veterinarians are overly focused on making money. The whole purpose of their profession – to improve the health and welfare of cats and other animals – could be relegated to second place. Debt burden must inevitably lead to a more commercial and callous approach to the profession which might translate to such things as vaccinating cats that don’t really need it and declawing cats – no cats need this.
There are deep rooted problems underpinning cat declawing. One of them is the culture of the people where the declawing takes place and another, I argue, is student debt.