search by author or title


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


Matthew Scully (View Bio)
Hardcover: St. Martin's Press, 2002; Paperback: St. Martin's Press/Griffin, 2003.


Dominion—mankind's power over animals—is a fact, as inescapable for human beings as it is for our fellow creatures. How we use that power is a test of human character, never more so than today, as our population swells and fashions ever more ferocious technologies to subdue the earth. But for the legal protections some domestic animals enjoy, there are no limits to the harm we can inflict, or the suffering they can endure. While viewing skeptically the notion of "animal rights," this book offers a rational moral case for animal welfare arising not from any bold new legal theory of "rights," but from our own western tradition of dominion. Matthew Scully has written a passionate work of reflection as well as of journalism. Appealing to the moral and religious traditions of the world he asks the reader to examine his or her own assumptions about our treatment of animals by revealing the actual consequences of dominion as practiced today. It is a compelling and sensitive book.

The Atlantic Monthly's Editor's Choice —  1 of the 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2002

"[Matthew Scully] bears witness to the methodologies and eminent books that call on humans to be gentle to animals...He also attempts to answer that all-important question of the extent to which animals are cognizant of ill-treatment." — al Jazeera

"Winsome and inviting.... A challenging and potentially life-changing book.... Scully's book stretches our understanding of what it means to be humane." — National Review

"Until quite recently, my conscience was clear when it came to my relationship with the animals.... My self-satisfaction has been rather shaken, however, by reading the new book DOMINION.... The truly remarkable thing about this book is its assertion that many animals in this world deserve better, not because they are our equals and have rights like our own, but precisely because they are our inferiors and subject to our power." — San Francisco Catholic

"This is one of the best books ever written on the subject of animal welfare.... [Scully] 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.... He asks penetrating questions and shows the logical and political inconsistencies used to defend cruel industries.... The author's sarcasm...adds an emotional element to his unequalled depth of insight. Scully has a remarkable grasp of the issues and a unique perspective on our societal treatment of animals. Every librarian should purchase this book. Highly recommended." — Library Journal (starred review)

"Skillfully weav[es] in argument with narrative.... Both entertaining and informative." — The American Spectator

"Scully makes an impassioned argument based on the fact that animals suffer and feel pain.... Matthew Scully is clearly an intelligent man whose big heart has found a just and noble cause. His is a powerful and sometimes even inspired writer, and his devotion to his subject is so great that he left his job at the White House to promote the message of this book." — The Weekly Standard

"Scully has written what is surely destined to be a classic defense of mercy. [He is] a master of language." — Washington Post Book World

"One of the best books of last year." — Forward

"It combines strong investigative journalism with polemical rigor, droll humor, searing images, a call to action, and a set of recommended legal reforms to protect animals against the most extreme forms of institutionalized abuse." — Dr. Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns in SATYA magazine

"Impressively informative, infuriating, tragic, and sardonic. It is a prodigious achievement.... Thoughtful and courageous.... An enraging, illuminating book.... A groundbreaking book, moral, practical and worthy of the widest audience possible." — The Daily Camera (Boulder, CO)

"I am about to do something I never thought I would do. I am going to strongly recommend a new book written by Matthew Scully.... He skillfully argues his case for compassion.... He can be disarmingly polite and witty as he bursts the balloons of self-serving illogic that define society's relationship to animals.... Scully brilliantly articulates the idea that where fundamental human interests are at stake, and human suffering is the issue, the progressives among us are more absolutists, but with animals and their suffering they become moral relativists who dare not question what others — from Japanese whalers to profiteering pork producers — rationalize in defence of their respective forms of animal abuse.... This book is highly recommended to all." — Toronto Star

"DOMINION is a horrible, wonderful, important book. It is horrible in its subject, a half-reportorial, half-philosophical examination of some of the most repugnant things that human beings do to animals.... The book is wonderful in its eloquent, mordant clarity, and its hilarious fillets of sanctimonious can and hypocrisy.... DOMINION is important in large measure because the author, an avowed conservative Republican and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, is an unexpected defender of the animals against the depredations of profit-driven corporations, swaggering, gun-loving hunters, proponents of renewed 'harvesting' of whales and elephants and others who insist that all of nature is humanity's romper room, to play with, rearrange, and plunder at will.... This is a beautiful book." — The New York Times Book Review

"DOMINION is a book of arresting literary beauty.... Scully's writing draws its beauty from its calm and gentleness and restraint.... Scully will make all his readers think hard about their ethical obligations, not merely to animals, but to all living things that depend on the moral restraint of the strong.... DOMINION is a book to treasure even for those who will reject most of its conclusions. It is the work of a good man, whose goodness tells us much, not just about his own character, but about the character of the president who selected Scully to speak for him." — National Post (Canada)

"An unsettling book, one that will challenge the conflicting views most of us hold.... It shines a bright light on indecent treatment kept out of the public view.... It promises to stir many hearts and minds." — Arizona Republic

"An eloquent, tightly reasoned, courageous manifesto." — The Weekly Standard

"An eloquent polemic against human abuse of animals... Devastating." — Peter Singer, New York Review of Books

"A remarkable book.... An overwhelming case that man is abusing his stewardship of the earth." — The Sobran Newsletter

"A magnificent new book...Scully pulls his readers into the moral abyss now characterizing the ways humans treat animals." — Dallas Morning News

"A fascinating and disturbing read." — National Review

"A brilliant and comprehensive book on the suffering of animals.... I was frankly stunned by the intellectual integrity of Scully's book and his reasonable approach to the subject matter. Instead of sounding as if he were a whining sentimentalist, Scully cleverly turns the tables on those who would dismiss animal suffering as a soft-headed cause by his use of hard facts.... I was moved.... The most appealing phrase that Scully uses is one you will hear true thinkers use when discussing any weighty subject: It is a serious and complicated situation, and I don't claim to have all the answers.... I realize that Scully was right to say he doesn't have all the answers. And that gives him a unique credibility on the subject." — UPI

"A book that cannot be ignored. A tour de force with the impact potential of Rachel Carson's SILENT SPRING." — Crisis magazine

"A beautifully written and very powerful book." — G. Gordon Liddy

"[Scully] is eminently qualified, by virtue of his rhetorical gifts.... Eloquent." — Los Angeles Times

"[Scully] doesn't proselytize. What he advocates, simply, is humane treatment for all God's creatures.... I was saddened, moved and unsettled by this book. I no longer consider animal rights a fringe movement.... In the end, Scully does a brilliant job of planting a very disturbing seed: If we can treat animals this cruelly, what are we capable of doing to ourselves?" — Rocky Mountain News

"[A] powerful, profoundly moral book.... Half investigative tract, half philosophical meditation, DOMINION is an unusual hybrid of a book.... Scully is to be commended. He is a deeply intelligent, deeply compassionate man with a basic argument, radical in its implications." — The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA)

"Some books you don't just read, you live with them, you tell friends about them, you read passages aloud to your wife, they change the way you live in the world. This is one of those books.... An extraordinary book, deep, witty, incisive.... I cannot think of a single volume that can equal this one in passion, in persuasiveness, in profundity.... I defy you to read this without a feeling of awe, because the righter gets it so right, no just the idea, but also the tone, the hidden appeal, the intense feeling behind the writing.... Eloquent passages occur over and over in the book. You cannot but sigh with pleasure as you read them.... Absolutely devastating.... You feel the compassion flowing from him right onto the page, and hopefully right into your heart as it did mine. It is compelling stuff. I challenge anyone to read it with indifference. Anyone who has anything to do with animals (and that means everyone who eats them) owes it to him or herself to read this extraordinary book. It just might change your life." — New Zealand Listener

"Scully is at his best when he...goes out into the field. With an almost masochistic resolve, he exposes himself to the theory and practice of exploitation as it is found among the exponents of commercial hunting and industrial farming.... In the three arenas — food, sport, and experiment — Scully asks all the right questions.... When he is on form, he does this in beautiful and witty prose.... I came to discern while reading DOMINION that in all the cases where animal suffering disturbed me, it was largely because of rationalist humanism.... Rights have to be asserted. Animals cannot make such assertions. We have to make representations to ourselves on their behalf. To the extent that we see our own interest in doing so, we unpick both the tautology that hobbles the utilitarian and the idealist delusion that surrounds the religious, and may simply become more 'humane' — a word that seems to require a final vowel as never before." — Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic Monthly

Up Back to Top