Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Dominion" by Matthew Scully

I recently read Dominion by Matthew Scully, and was impressed by the author's eloquence and merciful compassion. Scully is not your stereotypical animal rights advocate: he is a prominent conservative, and has worked as a speechwriter for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle, Robert P. Casey and Sarah Palin. The book should provide a refreshing perspective for anyone already familiar with standard animal rights philosophy, and would be a great recommendation for a more conservative skeptic.

An excerpt:

"Walking around a place like Farm 2149, I do not need some utilitarian philosopher to do the moral math for me, adding up and subtracting the suffering of the world to determine which lives have value and which do not. I do not need a contractualist philosopher to define for me an "appropriate object of sympathy." I do not need behavioral scientists or cognitive theorists to distinguish which pains are "real" pains and which are not. I do not need experts in evolutionary ecology or some other faddish field of the day to explain the hard and remorseless demands of natural selection. I require no advice from theologians on where mercy may be granted and where withheld. Confronted with this wholesale disregard and destruction of life, all attempts to justify it strike me as vain talk, miserable excuses that cannot cover the iniquity, the ungodly presumption of it, the scale and sorrow of it.

Only effete "urbanites," we are admonished, care about such things because we are so estranged from nature's harsh realities. But these particular realities are not of nature's design, and in every corner of our factory farms one finds the most casual disregard for the nature of the animals themselves. Nature has its own hardships, but its own kindnesses, too, like straw and room to sleep and the care of a mother for her young. When we take even those away, we are smothering the inmost yearnings of these creatures and the charity in our own hearts."

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