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

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

4.5 14
by Matthew Scully
     
 

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"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."--Genesis 1:24-26

In this crucial passage from the Old Testament, God grants mankind power over animals. But

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Overview

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."--Genesis 1:24-26

In this crucial passage from the Old Testament, God grants mankind power over animals. But with this privilege comes the grave responsibility to respect life, to treat animals with simple dignity and compassion.

Somewhere along the way, something has gone wrong.

In Dominion, we witness the annual convention of Safari Club International, an organization whose wealthier members will pay up to $20,000 to hunt an elephant, a lion or another animal, either abroad or in American "safari ranches," where the animals are fenced in pens. We attend the annual International Whaling Commission conference, where the skewed politics of the whaling industry come to light, and the focus is on developing more lethal, but not more merciful, methods of harvesting "living marine resources." And we visit a gargantuan American "factory farm," where animals are treated as mere product and raised in conditions of mass confinement, bred for passivity and bulk, inseminated and fed with machines, kept in tightly confined stalls for the entirety of their lives, and slaughtered in a way that maximizes profits and minimizes decency.

Throughout Dominion, Scully counters the hypocritical arguments that attempt to excuse animal abuse: from those who argue that the Bible's message permits mankind to use animals as it pleases, to the hunter's argument that through hunting animal populations are controlled, to the popular and "scientifically proven" notions that animals cannot feel pain, experience no emotions, and are not conscious of their own lives.

The result is eye opening, painful and infuriating, insightful and rewarding. Dominion is a plea for human benevolence and mercy, a scathing attack on those who would dismiss animal activists as mere sentimentalists, and a demand for reform from the government down to the individual. Matthew Scully has created a groundbreaking work, a book of lasting power and importance for all of us.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Scully's riveting account... shows how unspeakable and systematic animal cruelty is the currency of a soulless industry that has shattered American rural communities, poisoned our soils, air, and water, made family farmers an endangered species, and undermined our democracy. Scully's book gently questions whether we can foster human dignity in a society that treats other sentient beings as production units.” —Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

“Matthew Scully has set forth a case - in a wry and riveting manner - that will resonate with any reader who values logical reasoning and ethical conduct. I expect that Dominion will be the most influential book on animal protection in the last twenty-five years.” —Wayne Pacelle, Senior Vice President, The Humane Society of the United States

In the Book of Genesis, God grants mankind "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." With that dominion, contends reporter Matthew Scully, comes the responsibility to treat animals with kindness. Moving from biblical injunction to torture-filled factory farms, he argues that we have violated logical reasoning and ethical conduct by treating other sentient beings as efficiently processed production units. Passionate, controversial, and contentious, Dominion could become the most influential book on animal protection in decades.
Library Journal
This is one of the best books ever written on the subject of animal welfare. Scully, a journalist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, chooses to fight on his own ground, and he rightly argues that the important thing is not insisting upon equal "rights" for animals but in treating them with a modicum of respect and dignity. His book is as close as a philosophy can come to representing "animal rights" goals while not proclaiming animals to be equal in status to humans, as do classic works like Peter Singer's Animal Liberation. As a journalist, Scully personally investigated several major animal industries, including those of hunting, whaling, and factory farming. He asks penetrating questions and shows the logical and political inconsistencies used to defend cruel industries. Although some may balk at the author's sarcasm, it adds an emotional element to his unequaled depth of insight. Scully has a remarkable grasp of the issues and a unique perspective on our societal treatment of animals. Every library should purchase this book. Highly recommended.-John Kistler, Utah State Univ. Lib., Logan Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A moral inquiry into the human treatment of animals.

Like it or not, humans have a measure of dominion over animals, but what are our moral obligations toward them, Scully asks. Do we sit mute before the unspeakable conditions and unadulterated cruelty of factory farming of animals or the staged machismo of big-game hunting? Do we recognize animals as having intelligence and capacity for pain, recognize their moral worth and our duty and kinship to them under natural law, "which advances a being onward toward its natural fulfillment"? If one is an eater of meat, asks vegetarian Scully, do you ask whether that pork chop had a good life before the blade ran home, and are you willing to support giant operations in which pigs are denied every conceivable natural moment, including sunlight? Scully has done plenty of fieldwork to make it plain that humility and empathy don’t guide our dealings with fellow creatures on megafarms or on "safari." Decency and mercy are ostensible values governing behavior between humans, and it’s ridiculous to Scully to think they wouldn’t play a part in our interactions with animals. Yet, however vivid Scully’s descriptions of feedlots or however righteous his moral ground or unsparing his critiques of Peter Singer or Stephen Budiansky, he is also preaching to the converted. He takes pains to alienate hunters and will irritate fence-sitters with his coyness ("the creatures’ little lives of grazing and capering"), meanwhile offending everyone else and betraying his speechwriting past by unctuously draping expressions of uncertainty over the utter absence of his own uncertainty, with his buffed prose and his tendency to mewl: "The images bore witness."

Still,Scully’s appeal for respect and dignity in our treatment of animals certainly beats the big-game outfitter who’s quoted: "You shoot ’em at close range. And the thing is, they don’t go right down. They get up. And now they’re piffed."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312319731
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
09/28/2003
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
192,850
Product dimensions:
5.53(w) x 8.45(h) x 1.08(d)

Meet the Author

Matthew Scully served from January 2001 until June 2002 as special assistant and senior speechwriter to President George W. Bush. He worked in the president's 2000 campaign and has also written for vice presidents Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney, and for the late Pennsylvania governor Robert P. Casey. A former Literary Editor for the National Review, he has been published in various periodicals including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He lives with his wife, Emmanuelle, in northern Virginia.

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