DOMINION: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals and the Call
by Matthew Scully.
St. Martin's Press, NY, 2002
Review by J.R. Hyland.
In November of 1998, this reviewer received a
copy of an article from the National Review. As editor of Humane Religion, then a
bi-monthly journal, we were used to getting all kinds of
clippings from our readers, negative and positive. And when I saw
this was taken from the very conservative NR I was sure it was
going to be disheartening, at best. But I couldn't maintain that
attitude because the article began with the statement "Respect
for God's creatures should be a conservative impulse."
It had been written by a Matthew Scully who was identified as a
contributing editor of the NR and who, in the space of about
eight hundred words, managed to take on hunters, factory-farming,
and the distortion of the biblical concept of dominion. And he
wasn't even one of "us." He was one of "them."
I wrote the author telling him how pleased I was to read his
article and sent him some of our Humane Religion publications.
Several weeks later he phoned, and in the course of that, and
subsequent conversations, I realized that a concern for animals
was not a peripheral issue for Scully. In fact, it was a focus
that later led him to make a major commitment of his time,
talent, and connections in order to investigate the brutality and
greed that characterizes the human abuse of other creatures. And
it was this investigation that led him to write DOMINION at a
time when he worked at the White House as senior speechwriter and
special assistant to George W. Bush.
The author's political connections allowed him to gain access to
people like suppliers of canned hunts and places like the Safari
Club International where the elite of those who enjoy
recreational killing can get together at annual conventions to
support each other and pray for God's blessing on their pastime.
There, men like former President George Bush and General Norman
H. Schwarzkopf share their finer feelings with their audience. Mr.
Bush admits he never shot big game but assures his comrades that
"You get up tremendous excitement shooting quail." And the
General, whose shooting sprees find a target in a variety of
creatures, shared his sensitive nature with those present. After
he kills his prey he will often "stand over that animal I love so
much [and] shed a tear."
Scully shows that the cruelty which characterizes recreational
killing exists among all income groups and also thrives among
academics who lend their credentials to the multi-billion dollar
business of animal research. With no moral or ethical guidelines
to hamper them either personally or by fiat, these learned
persons devise unspeakable atrocities, endlessly repeated, with
no need to validate the claim that their work benefits humanity.
Their experiments in sadism have become just as much a part of
university life as the sports teams that also bring in big bucks.
Scully refers to "our boundless capacity
for self-delusion, especially where money is involved" and shows
how this is evident in the madness of factory farming, that system
of food production in which sentient beings have been transformed into
units of production. Aided by technology and biological
innovations, these animals lead tormented lives in which they are
debeaked, declawed, forcibly impregnated, castrated, force-fed or
starved--depending on what "product" they are to become. Crippled
and maimed, mired in their own waste, they are also deprived of
fresh air, sunlight and space to move. The fortunate ones do not
survive long enough to be slaughtered, a process in which
thousands of terrified animals end up being fed alive into
choppers, hacked to death, skinned alive or boiled to death in
The greed, rationalizations and assembly line brutalities that
support factory-farming are also used to justify the fur trade.
In a culture producing synthetic materials that are warmer and
more protective than the remains of dead animals, hundreds of
thousands of them are slaughtered to satisfy the vanity and
pretensions of those who are willing to pay for the privilege of
upholding the fur-trade. In England it has been outlawed: "It
shall be an offense for any person to keep or knowingly cause or
permit to be kept for production of fur any mink, fox, or other
DOMINION is such a powerful book that when I read the
manuscript, before it was sent to the publisher, I was sure that
St. Martin's Press would either refuse to print it or would force
Scully to a rewrite that would effectively neutralize both its
content and the passion of his writing. But that didn't happen.
DOMINION retains all the potency of the original manuscript and
although it runs to over 400 pages, the intensity of the writing
keeps the reader's attention from the first chapter to the last.
However, the potential reader should know that the passion which
marks the author's exposť of fur-wearing, factory farming and
hunting is also directed at anyone whose practices or theories he
views as detrimental in the struggle to end animal abuse. This
includes groups and individuals whose names have become
sacrosanct to many in the animal rights movement. Make no
mistake, Matthew Scully is an iconoclast although his steel fist
is often covered by a velvet glove.
This article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2003 issue of ANIMAL PEOPLE
and is used by permission. Website:
Humane Religion Magazine
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