from Humane Religion

DOMINION: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals and the Call to Mercy

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 huge vats.

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 fur-bearing animal."

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:

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