Yeah, I honestly don't know. I'm a relatively new cat-lover and have been thinking about this quite a bit over the past few months.
The problem for me with declawing is that so many people do it without researching the procedure or putting any thought to possible consequences of doing it. It is, after all, a surgery. THAT is the worst, in my opinion. It's also unnecessary in many many many situations.
My SO had 3 cats growing up that were all declawed AND all indoor/outdoor (I'm not an advocate of outdoor cats without front claws btw). They all lived until they were about 20 or even a bit older. They managed to hunt prey and kill birds and do all sorts of things. Front claws are of course an important defense mechanism, but they aren't helpless without them.
I think the horrors of declawing cats are based on older techniques and it's easy to play into peoples' emotions over it. The distal phalynx (or whatever it's called) isn't something you can compare to any part of a human's anatomy. If anyone is going to declaw their cat, I just hope that it's done using the newer laser technique, that they research it, and that it's a last-resort option for them. I am not going to judge them for doing it at all. It will help keep a happier environment between owner and pet, which the pet is going to pick up on.
When I adopted Mattie, I didn't know that she was declawed. I knew about the controversy over it but had never owned a cat, so I went out and bought Soft Paws figuring that if I didn't use them, that she would be shredding everything I owned. Well, when I arrived at the shelter it turned out that she was front declawed (her previous owner) and so it was a non-issue. I was actually secretly happy she was declawed because I didn't have to worry about her ruining anything (selfish, I know...but this is a new cat owner! I wasn't sure what she was capable of). The thing is, Mattie does walk a little funny. I don't know if that's all in my head though. She is also very timid. I don't know if that's from her being declawed because I didn't know her before it happened. I do wonder what her personality would be like if she wasn't declawed, but you never know. It might not even be any different.
Then I adopted Chloe. I bought kitten soft paws (again, because I thought I needed them), nail trimmers, scratching pads (horizontal, vertical, cardboard, sisal, etc.), etc. Maybe it's just because she is a kitten but I haven't even *had* to train her to use her scratching pads. She would sometimes scratch on the couch and on my desk chair but I had to pick her up once and put her on her scratching post thing and she's only ever used that since. I had the vet trim her nails when she had her booster shots. Just tonight I tried doing it on my own for the first time (because they are noticeably longer/sharper! lol it hurts MUCH more now to have her walk across me, hehe). I only got 2 of her nails cut even though she was sleepy. She's just a kitten with no desire to sit still. I am so proud of myself for trimming those 2 nails though, because now I know how easy it really is. Based on Chloe, it's hard to understand how hard it can be for some people to train their cats to juts scratch in appropriate areas. Maybe most people just don't realize how easy it is to teach your cat not to do it? It's so much less of an issue than I ever expected it to be (yay!).
That doesn't mean I'm not sympathetic though. Sure, a cat is a living being and furniture is just furniture....but it creates a hostile feeling toward the cat and I truly believe that the cat picks up on that. If someone is having trouble with their cat scratching/ruining things and has tried everything (sticky paws tape, soft paws, provides scratching posts, etc.), and they are just fed up and want to declaw the cat, AND do their research on the procedure and make an INFORMED decision, then I have no problem with it.
I'm also a little swayed by the people who could give a cat a home but aren't really cat people and are afraid of stuff being ruined. People like my mom. She would be the first person to have a cat declawed, but she could also give a cat a home that might otherwise be put down. I love my mom, but she is the type of person who would just NOT bring a cat home if it wasn't declawed or if it wasn't going to be. I would rather a cat be declawed and given a home than be euthanized. I know that's not *perfect* logic because the person can always give them a home and not declaw, but unfortunately that just isn't reality (at least I don't think it is). A lot of people would argue that someone like my mom just shouldn't own a cat if they are going to declaw it or if they are going to be willing to live in a damaged house, but I just can't buy into that argument. That's one less cat in a shelter, ya' know? Less-than-perfect-pet-owners can still give a pet a home. In a perfect world, every cat owner would make informed decisions about vet procedures, the food they feed their pets, etc. but that's just not the case. Ok now I'm rambling and I probably sound like an awful, cold-hearted, person.
That's my un-PC opinion. Can you tell I am still conflicted about this? I really do see both sides of the issue.
*runs and hides*
To the original poster - a google search on "declawing" will bring up many anti-declaw and pro-declaw websites that are worth looking at.