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

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2003:

Dominion:
The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals and the Call to Mercy
by Matthew Scully
St. Martin’s Press (175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010), 2002.
464 pages. $27.95 hardcover.

In November of 1998 I received a copy of
an article from the National Review. As editor
of Humane Religion, a bi-monthly journal, I was
used to getting all kinds of clippings from our
readers, negative and positive. And when I saw
this was taken from the very conservative
National Review, I was sure it was going to be
disheartening, at best. But I couldn’t maintain
that attitude. The article began with the
statement “Respect for God’s creatures should be
a conservative impulse.”


It was written by Matthew Scully, who
was identified as a National Review contributing
editor. He took on hunters, factory-farming,
and the distortion of the Biblical concept of
dominion, all within about 500 words. And he
wasn’t even one of “us.” He was one of “them.”
Although politically liberal, my
experience as an Evangelical who is often treated
as one of “them” in the animal rights movement
allowed me to accept, unreservedly, the passion
of this man’s concern for animals.
I wrote to him, telling him how pleased
I was to read his article, and sent him some
Humane Religion publications. Several weeks
later Scully 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 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.
The author’s political connections
allowed him to gain access to people like
suppliers of canned hunts and places like the
annual conventions of Safari Club International,
where the elite of those who enjoy recreational
killing get together to support each other and
pray for God’s blessing. The keynote speakers
have included former President George Bush and
General Norman H. Schwarzkopf.
Bush admitted that he never shot big
game, but assured his comrades that, “You get
up tremendous excitement shooting quail.”
Schwarzkopf claimed that 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 among all
income groups also thrives among some of the
academics who lend their credentials to the
multi-billion-dollar business of animal research.
And what Scully refers to as “our boundless
capacity for self-delusion, especially where
money is involved,” is also evident in the
madness of factory farming and the fur trade, as
he also details.
Scully wrote Dominion even as he worked
at the White House as special assistant and
senior speechwriter to George W. Bush-a position
to which he has returned after a brief hiatus.
Dominion is so powerful 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 do a rewrite that would neutralize both
its content and the passion of his writing. That
did not happen. Dominion retains the potency of
the original manuscript, and although it runs
over 400 pages, the writing is intense from the
first chapter to the last.
The passion which marks Scully’s exposé
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 some 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.
–J.R. Hyland

[J.R. Hyland is director of Humane
Religion, <www.HumaneReligion.org>, an
educational and outreach organization, and is
author of God’s Covenant With Animals, Sexism Is
A Sin and The Slaughter of Terrified Beasts.]
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