This is a follow up to the classroom cat castration story. Sorry if this annoys one or two people but I think it is an important follow up as it raises an interesting ethical question because some people are defending the teacher’s actions. Was he wrong? Did he behave unethically and inhumanely? For me the answers are a clear: Yes, but not everyone would agree with me including one of the members of the Stephens County Board of Education (the Board) whose name is Jim Ledford.
Daniel Hebert is an excellent science teacher at Stephens County High School (SCHS). The fact that he is a well-regarded teacher made it hard for the Board to agree with his resignation at the end of the school year in 2015 (his resignation was accepted 6-1).
Daniel Hebert decided to castrate two cats in the classroom while the students participated. It appears they held the cats down. One student was scratched and the cats did not have rabies vaccinations. We are not clear whether anaesthetic was used or not but it appears not. His actions caused uproar and the press got hold of the story.
It seems to have been a completely misconceived classroom-based science lesson although his intentions were acceptable. It appears that Mr Hebert wanted to demonstrate the castration (neutering) process with regard to livestock – farm animals. I have a feeling he was teaching animal husbandry. He was providing agricultural education but he was using a pet cat. That is unacceptable moreso because he is not a veterinarian.
He did it in an entirely inappropriate way. The Board through spokesman Stephens County School Superintendent Bryan Dorsey, concluded:
“There are certainly protocols and appropriate situations where that is demonstrated to students. However, concerning pets in a classroom environment, we would consider that an inappropriate activity….We would certainly understand if our animal science class was in the presence of a veterinarian conducting that, what we would consider normal practices.”
A woman named Wendy Dawkins made an interesting comment. I don’t know her position in this. Perhaps she is the mother of a student. Her strident argument is that extremists (she is referring to animal rights advocates, I believe) are behind the criticism of the teacher forcing his resignation.
“I believe that the extremists who are causing this chaos are the kind of people who want to believe that their ribeye steak comes from a steak tree in the backyard and that when they drop their cat off at a neuter clinic, the cat has a magic wand waved over it and is then returned to them.”
What she is saying is that the critics are not living in the real world. The teacher was just showing students what really happens. I get that. I understand her point of view but I disagree. I tend to agree with Mr Dorsey although I don’t believe that a veterinarian operation on a cat should take place in a student high school classroom because it is not sanitised and prepared properly for an operation.
If the neutering was conducted by a vet at the school as Mr Dorsey states it would still be inappropriate as far as I am concerned because:
- The environment is not prepared for an operation
- >The environment is frightening for a cat – lots of people
Conclusion?: Teaching castration in class is unacceptable. Wendy Dawkins is insensitive towards animals. The teacher just made a bad judgement. He probably wanted to create an interesting and engaging lesson for his students and went too far and lost his ability to make a good decision. Mr Dorsey, the superintendent, has it half correct. A veterinarian is the only person who should do this in front of students and it should be done at a clinic and the cat properly sedated etc. while students watch from a reasonable distance.
What happened is still a borderline crime, to be honest. The teacher could have been prosecuted under welfare legislation and possible would have been in a European country.
My thanks to Elisa Black-Taylor for pointing to this story on Examiner.com.
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