Dominion by Matthew Scully; A Glimmer of Hope

Recently I read Dominion by Matthew Scully. Scully speaks to the need for protecting animals, primarily based on mercy through compassion, empathy, protection and recognizing that humans have failed other sentient beings.

Matthew Scully bridges the necessity for obvious kindness with making choices that benefit all beings, “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.”  p. 288

Scully describes in detail the various harms inflicted upon animals ranging from the Safari Club, to vivisection, factory farming and more, “”Our” worst offense is permissiveness, inattention, or, in the case of industrial agriculture, complicity.” p. 352  

He writes that most people are unaware of most of the practices described in this book and that “ninety or so percent of the problems come from five or so percent of the population”. p. 352

If it is mainstream in America, to consider cruelty to dogs and cats unacceptable, then my hope is that through bringing awareness of what we do to other animals, and drawing the comparison of cruelty, would bridge a gap and close a disconnect. My hope is that realizing the vast cruelty would result in action to stop that cruelty to the point of mainstream norms and collective consciousness.

As individuals we have the power to integrate compassion on deeper levels. When we say we love animals yet turn a blind eye to how they are treated in the food, fur, vivisection and entertainment industries; when we shame single acts of cruelty, yet support wide spread industrial cruelty through our own consumerism; when we value the life of a dog while disregarding the life of a pig; each of these reflect a disconnect that we can change within ourselves.

As a humane educator I seek ways to make connections that do ‘most good and least harm’, a concept developed by Zoe Weil. During tours of River’s Wish, people are introduced to individual animals who live at the sanctuary. Their stories are told. These stories often refer to abandonment, neglect and abuse.  Many of the animals have been saved from slaughter. People respond to these stories with compassion and question how anyone could possibly do such a thing.  Hearts are touched. Thoughts give way for reflection.

People meet Vegan and Valentine, our two Yorkshire pigs who were rescued from different circumstances. My hope is that a face, a personality and recognition of their individuality will replace the abstract notions of their species. I hope this will translate to the choices people make. Choices that say 'no' to animal exploitation and suffering.

I felt a glimmer of hope in my heart when reading Matthew Scully’s Dominion: hope because he is not one whom I would normally regard as an animal rights activist and therefore his words may find new audiences opening more hearts and minds. Hope because he hears their cries and advocates mercy for all beings.