Welcome to Viewpoint. Today we are pleased to have Matthew Scully, author of “Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy," with us today.
Matthew Scully: Hello, and thanks for inviting me to join you this afternoon.
Is it cruelty if I leave my dog outside during the winter?
Matthew Scully: Pennsylvania winters can get pretty harsh. I'd open the door and see if he wants to come in.
Sterling Heights, Mich.:
Dear Mr. Scully,
I am currently reading your book Dominion. Excellent but heartbreaking. Most people I discuss animal rights with view the discussion as weird or uncommon due to their opinion that animals are animals. How do you try to explain that animals do have rights? I am also challenged by hunters and their opinion. I sometimes feel awkward because the status quo is so unlike my feelings. I think our society is changing but yet there is so much animal abuse. In my house we catch and release bugs, some people find this crazy. What can you say to someone who has no respect for animal suffering or possibly isn't aware of its existence? Thank you!
Matthew Scully: Thanks, Sterling Heights, for reading the book. If I can take just one of your questions, about animal rights, I think this whole matter tends to be debated in overly academic terms -- what is a right, who can be said to possess rights, can beings who cannot exercise duties be said to have rights, and so on.
The crucial point is that human beings clearly have moral responsibilities in the treatment of animals, and that these duties place moral boundaries on what one may or may not do to an animal. The creature has a moral claim, whatever one cares to call it, and this claim defines our human obligations. The next step is to translate clear standards of humane conduct into law -- exactly as we do in current cruelty statutes -- so that every person who mistreats an animal is not left to be the judge in his own case.
What can be done about a neighbor who gave one of his renters horses Oleanders in some grass clippings even after she asked him not to feed her horses? And now the horse is dead.
Matthew Scully: I think I read about this case in The Arizona Republic. I assume authorities are looking into it, and if so it will be for them to decide.
New Rochelle, N.Y.:
Fur seems to be making a big comeback, especially among celebrities.
How do you explain to people that you won't wear fur (especially when they see you wearing leather shoes?)
Matthew Scully: The "why are you wearing leather?" comeback can be a cheap debating point to divert attention from the matter in question. But behind the taunts, there is one fair enough point. Most leather, we can safely assume, is a bi-product of the same harsh farming system you rightly object to in the case of meat production. So why accept one product when you wouldn't accept the other?
Best, I'd advise, to give up all animal products obtained by cruel methods. There are some fine companies nowadays offering leather substitutes. I recommend a little company called Pangea something or other, based in Maryland, which you can find on the Internet.
What is the best way to influence politicians, especially conservative politicians, to pass compassionate legislation?
Matthew Scully: There are some tireless letter-writers out there who do a great deal of good. Politicians read their mail, so that's always the best start. And the more authentic and heartfelt the letter, as compared with form letters, the more persuasive you will be.
Mr. Scully, the word around town is that the Administration decided that "Dominion" - and the identity-profile it gave you - made you an unacceptable selection to stay in the White House, and recently fired you. Can you tell people why, and under what circumstances, you have apparently left the White House staff? Will you continue your work for the animals?
Matthew Scully: Actually, my colleagues at the White House could not have been more gracious and obliging toward me these past few years, and more than a few seemed to share my concern for animal welfare.
You may recall, in fact, that I left the job in July of '02, when the book came out, so that I could promote it freely without having to worry about all the various rules covering federal employees. Somehow, if the administration were as as intolerant as you imagine, I don't think they'd have invited me to rejoin the staff. After I did return in Dec. '02, by the way, I was even permitted to continue giving interviews about the book and about the general subject -- a kindness I appreciated.
As a Republican, I am very concerned that most of the animal welfare legislation is introduced or supported by Democrats and many of the proposed legislature that I perceive as harmful to animals (canned hunts, etc.) is introduced or supported mostly by Republicans. I know there are decent, caring Republican candidates and officials. Are the Republican electorate not vocal enough to voice their concerns and views about animal welfare?
Matthew Scully: You raise a good point. I am reliably told that nearly half the 8 million members of the Humane Society of the United States are registered Republicans. That comes to an average of, just guessing here, five or six thousand HSUS members in each congressional district. Factor in the many more members of the ASPCA, the Doris Day Animal League (named for a great Republican lady), and other animal-welfare groups in every congressional district, and it should all add up to a lot of influence.
The problem, of course, is that for this influence to be fully felt, animal-welfare issues like factory farming and canned hunting need a wider hearing, and that's where journalists come in. When was the last time a candidate for national or even state office was asked -- say, in a televised debate -- to weigh in on a growing public concern like factory farming and the cruelties and environmental destruction it entails? Suddenly, if such questions were asked, candidates and voters alike would have to give the problem serious attention. This happened in Florida in 2002, when a ballot initiative to prohibit certain cruelties in hog farming was put before the voters, and the majority approved it.
Tacoma, Wash: What sorts of animal cruelty laws have been enacted recently in European countries? I read recently of Austria outlawing some of the deplorable conditions of chicken factory farms, such as the confinment of the animals for life in small, cramped boxes and other forms of massed produced cruelty in the poultry business.
Matthew Scully: I'd have to do some research, but offhand there have been some very hopeful developments lately, including those reforms in Austria that you mention. The European Union also has passed new rules restricting some of the more severe practices of confinement farming, though they don't go into effect for a few more years.
I am a lawyer who would like to use my skills to strengthen protections for animals. Do you have any suggestions for ways I can help, including specific organizations that are working through the legal system to improve the situation?
Matthew Scully: Hello, Arlington. Two of the finest animal-protection groups I know of are the Humane Society of the US and Farm Sanctuary (farmsanctuary), and they, I'm sure can always use good legal minds for the cases they pursue. I assume the ASPCA also needs outside legal aid from time to time. You might start by contacting those three groups.
Santa Monica, Calif.:
As a Washington insider, what advice can you offer for dealing with a committee chair, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who is currently stonewalling H.R. 857, the bill to end the slaughter of horses in the U.S.? This is a bill that, based upon many polls, has the support of 85% or more of the American people, yet one man is blocking it, and we are all frustrated.
Matthew Scully: I don't feel much like a Washington insider from here in beautiful Phoenix, Arizona, but I do share your concern. I hope that Mr. Goodlatte will give the matter some more thought, and open his heart to the suffering of these creatures.
This is more of a thank you than a question.
Thank you, Mr. Scully, for being a voice for the animals. Keep up the good work. They need people like you to get involved and care. Please never give up your plight to help the animals. People these days have lost track of their moral obligation to respect and care for the world around them and we need more executive figures like you to stand up and say that these issues cannot and should not be ignored. These animal rights issues are important! Even how they play into our very own existence is pivotal and is not to be taken to so lightly. Some of the issues are in need immediate attention. And we cannot just turn a blind eye to the fact of all the injustices we do to the animal kingdom on a daily basis. Just please don’t give up assisting the animal kingdom and giving them a voice and hopefully more of the world will listen. Some of the world is listening and people like you can help persuade others to listen and learn too.
Hopefully, in a perfect world, we will live where people will take a stand to respect the animal kingdom. People like you can help make that happen.
Thank you, Barbara
Matthew Scully: My kind of question, Barbara -- thanks!
Have you experienced much ridicule or hostility from your fellow conservatives regarding your views on animal cruelty and factory farming? Have you been able to persuade any of them to take this issue seriously?
P.S. You rock!
Matthew Scully: Thanks, Madison. Conservatives of a more libertarian stripe haven't shown much interest in the book -- a pleasant exception being one fellow at the Cato Institute in DC who had some kind and thoughtful things to say in his review. On the other hand you have conservatives like Fred Barnes, Father Richard John Neuhaus in National Review, another reviewer for the Weekly Standard, my friend Andrew Ferguson in a column for Bloomberg News, G. Gordon Liddy, Chuck Colson, Paul Harvey and various others who in their treatment of Dominion took the whole subject quite seriously. I was especially struck by Fred Barnes's review in The Wall Street Journal, which called factory farming an issue of great moral urgency (I don't recall his exact words). That was worth a lot to me, especially because I respect Fred so much as a person and as a writer. When a prominent conservative like him calls factory farming a morally important issue, in the pages of the business newspaper of the world, that's something.
Virginia Beach, Va.:
Mr. Scully, I have read "Dominion" and keep my copy out in the open. What do I do to combat a form of cruelty that is so prevalent and not even seen as cruelty? For example: the lack
of responsible domestic animal care by the guardians (no spay/neuter of them, no ID or collars, no comprehension of how these animals
are to be cared for); second, the arrogance of people to want to own an animal that is bred for another climate; third, people who do not know that a dog is not to be pegged out in a yard, and forgotten. This is a small rant, and to me, so obvious to educate oneself before getting an animal. Thank you.
Matthew Scully: Thanks for the question, and for reading the book.
Some of the problems you mention, like chaining dogs up in the back yard for days at a time, are possible cruelty offenses – animal neglect is a crime in every state – and at a certain point should be reported to your local humane society or animal-control agency.
By animals bred for other climates, I assume you mean exotic pets, and I agree the whole exotic pet trade reflects a certain foolish arrogance. Responding to the many abuses – like that tiger found in a Harlem apartment last year – more cities and states are restricting the ownership of exotic animals, or banning it altogether. At the federal level Congress last year passed, and President Bush signed, a measure restricting the interstate transport of big cats and other exotic animals for use as pets. So that’s all to the good, but there remain many tigers – something like 5,000 in Texas alone -- and other animals living in usually squalid conditions at the mercy of people who have no business owning a large, wild animal that should be roaming free.
Other problems you mention reflect the sheer indifference or negligence of the person responsible, and as you’ve probably found such people do not take well to suggestions no matter how tactfully offered. The best I can propose is to teach by example – let your light shine – in the care you show to your own animals and in the regard you show to theirs.
Do you think the day will ever come when people will be against killing animals for food, and most people will choose a plant-based diet?
Matthew Scully: Yes, I do. And what will bring this great change about are the very cruelties so common today. Factory farming, like comparable evils throughout history, depends for its existence upon concealment. It depends on people either not noticing or willfully averting their gaze. But that cannot go on forever, because by far most people are kind and just, and I believe that over time, one conscience at a time, humanity will turn against factory farming. Even when men and women decide, as most will at first, to give up factory-farmed meat in favor of meat from smaller and more humane enterprises, there is a certain logic in that decision – a moral logic instead of blind consumerism – that will lead many one day to give up animal products altogether.
Your question reminds me of a passage I came across some years ago in a book by the conservative Catholic writer Paul Johnson – a spiritual memoir called “The Quest for God.” It was one of those moments that first got me to thinking about writing my own book. Johnson is a much better authority than I am in historical trends, and since I have the book handy let me share his own prediction. “God allowed us to live off the beasts of the fields and forest because there was no other way,” he writes, but today we have an abundance of perfectly good substitutes. “Gradually this realization will take hold of us. The rise of factory farming, whereby food producers cannot remain competitive except by subjecting animals to life-cycles of unspeakable deprivation, has hastened this process. The human spirit revolts at what we have been doing.”
Mr. Scully -
How feasible would it be to change our federal laws from making animals 'property' to a level that requires "proper care and responsibility" for any animal, including farm animals. Or is this a state-by-state challenge?
Matthew Scully: One interesting point on this score is that, in practice, our current cruelty statutes already recognize domestic animals as more than mere "property." The law might classify your dog, cat, or horse, for instance, as your personal property, but if one is found to be mistreating or neglecting that same animal, the law will intervene and protect the creature. Laws in this way regognize some independent moral standing of animals covered by cruelty statutes.
My sense is that over time, the law will move toward the idea of guardianship, recognizing explicitly that no animal is just a piece of property or object of commerce.
What do you think the government could do more of to better help the plight of animals and to help fight against animal abuse?
What can citizens do to encourage politicians to take issues regarding animals more seriously? It seems like the general notion is that animal issues don't matter because there are so many issues affecting humans that need to be addressed. How can we help those who make and enforce the enforce the laws see that the two issues do not have to be mutually exclusive?'
Matthew Scully: I think the general problem you describe is a political one – that while most people will tend to favor any given animal welfare measure, whether it’s to protect wildlife or to close down puppy mills, the few who oppose reform are usually more intense, single-minded, and resourceful in their efforts.
A good example is a group I examine in Chapter 2 of my book, an outfit called Safari Club International based right here in Arizona. The group consists of 32,000 or so people whose all-consuming passion in life is killing “big game” for trophies – elephants, giraffe, exotic sheep, anything – with all sorts of inane competitions to see who can kill the most and biggest animals. Seeing these folks in action – baiting animals, lying in wait for elephants by the water hole, setting packs of dogs loose on bears, shooting wolves from helicopters, and the like – the average person, including the many decent people who hunt, would be appalled.
Unfortunately, the average person isn’t paying much attention, and meanwhile Safari Club throws a lot of money around in political campaigns. So you end up with this one tawdry little organization exerting influence – at the White House, Interior, and Fish & Wildlife – far out of proportion to its ranks or to its actual electoral importance. I remember one fellow at the White House, who deals in wildlife issues, informing me that while “mainstream groups” like Safari Club supported a particular proposal (to loose trophy hunters on endangered species), various “fringe groups” like the Humane Society of the United States opposed the idea. Safari Club has 32,000 members, I reminded him, HSUS has eight million members, and which sounded more mainstream to him?
So: the great majority of Americans who abhor cruelty to animals must make it clear to political candidates that these issues matter, and are among other important issues that will affect their votes. For their part, the journalists who cover campaigns could do us all a service by investigating groups like Safari Club, and challenging the candidates who seek its money and political support.
Can we please stop the slaughter of horses? They should be considered companion animals and their slaughter disgusts many of my friends and me. This is almost beyond cruelty, as they are transported without food or water over long distances and often have many types of medications which are not meant for humans.
Please work to stop the slaughter of horses.
Matthew Scully: As you probably know, there’s legislation pending on this very issue (HR 857 and S 2352), and of course I’m all for it.
The slaughter of horses is a example, as I see it, of a particularly selfish mindset that uses animals freely, but never wants to give anything back. Along with some wild horses who wind up at the slaughterhouse, most horses sold for slaughter have given profitable service at racetracks, as carriage horses, in pack-guide tour operations, or performing some other kind of labor. Then the day comes when they’re old or sick and can no longer make money for someone – so instead of being given a little patch of pasture somewhere they’re cast off like broken machinery, and left to a horrible fate the owners themselves would have a hard time watching. It’s not only cruel, it’s incredibly miserly and ungrateful, and for that reason alone should be forbidden.
With all the abuses of both animals and workers on corporate farms why is so little being done to make the American public aware of these atrocities. I feel that if news programs like 60 Minutes and dateline were to address the horrendous conditions on factory farms many people would opt to eat organic meat and dairy if not abstain from animal products altogether.
Matthew Scully: There have been some Pulitzer-quality exposes on the subject from newspaper reporters lately – Andrew Martin in The Chicago Tribune this year (”Hog Hell”), and the Washington Post’s Joby Warrick in 2002 (”They Die Piece by Piece”) The New York Times in 2000 ran a powerful series on the abuse of workers by factory farms and Smithfield Foods in particular – noting, for example, a 100 percent annual attrition rate among employees at the Smithfield plant in Tar Heel, NC, because of the whole hellish atmosphere of the place. (And it should surprise no one that corporations so merciless toward animals aren’t too worried about their employees, either.) But you’re right, it will take a few exposes on television to give these problems the wide attention they require.
A year or so back, I actually had a call from a producer for 60 Minutes who was casting about for an angle in a piece on factory farming. They were reluctant, he said, to go with a straight piece about the miseries of intensive farming because the footage would be so grim and horrific as to put viewers off. It’s an understandable concern, if you’re in the business of attracting viewers, but they should not underestimate their viewers and I hope they’ll stay on the case.
A major component in animal welfare is habitat and environment. How did your concern for animals "fit" with working for an administration that seems intent on destroying the very things that many creatures (including humans) need for their very survival?
Matthew Scully: In the short version, not very well. On the other hand I could give you a long list of reasons why it was a privilege to work for President Bush, starting with great personal respect and affection for the man himself.
It’s also worth pointing out as well that the destruction of forests and other habitat across the earth did not begin in January 2001.
Dear Mr. Scully,
I have not yet completed reading your book, but so far it has been unbelievably heart-wrenching and exceptional. The words on the pages of your book have come straight from my heart. It is so wonderful for me to know that there are other people in this world who think and feel as I do. It is easy to feel alone and different when you are surrounded by so much ignorance and worse, complacency. What kind of reactions have you gotten from Dominion and have the responses been overall been positive or negative?
Matthew Scully: Thanks for the very kind words. About reactions to the book, I’ve heard from quite a few readers just like you, who often feel alone and isolated in their concern for animal welfare. And it’s a wonderful thing to know that my book has encouraged their compassion and love for animals. I hope you’ll get more involved with animal-protection groups like The Humane Society of the US, the ASPCA, and Farm Sanctuary. You’ll find yourself surrounded by the finest of people.
Everyone with a heart for animals knows the feeling you describe – having to deal with people who are either indifferent or hostile toward animal welfare. I’ve found that sometimes even very decent and well intentioned people have a blind spot for the subject. A friend of mine from the 2000 campaign – an otherwise first-rate guy – actually said to me once that, while he was familiar with the details of factory farming, “I don’t care, I just don’t care.” It turns out he is now a lobbyist for Tyson Foods and other factory-farm interests – though when I’ve run into him since, he doesn’t seem very comfortable talking about his new line of work. I am pretty sure that if my friend really looked at the whole sorry industry he is representing, if he opened his heart to the suffering inflicted by factory farming, he would have no part of it.
My general rule in dealing with such people is to remember that, while I may have a few things to teach them about kindness to animals, they usually have other things to teach me. Even in the best of causes there’s always the danger of smugness, and I try my best to avoid it.
What I do not understand is why someone who abuses animals receives probation.
Matthew Scully: Every so often, a judge will punish cruelty offenses with the serious fines and sentences they deserve. There was the man in California a few years back, for example, who tossed a little dog into highway traffic and got the two-year maximum. But in general you’re right – cruelty offenses go lightly punished when they are even prosecuted at all. I have the impression this is slowly changing, however, and that more judges and prosecutors are prepared to apply cruelty laws to the full.
I've been an animal rights activist for fifteen years -- ocassionally participating in street protests but primarily educating those around me. Over the past two years I have sensed a heightened awareness in the mainstream media about animal rights issues. The creation of outfits like the anti-animal rights Center for Cosumer Freedom points seems to indicate to me that some industries (fast food, factory farms, fur, circus) have become aware of this heightened awarness and the threat it poses for them. Do you sense this heightened awareness in the culture at large? Now, over the long-term, do you see a "tipping point" in favor or against the animal rights movement? What are your thoughts on what that tipping point may be or when it may happen?
Matthew Scully: Thanks, Washington. The one point I'd make is that public concern does seem to be growing, for no more complicated reason than that abuses like factory farming are becoming more ruthless and pervasive. Just when we reach the tipping point in public opinion, I can't say, but we are certainly headed in that direction. And animal-related industries are attempting marginal reforms because they can clearly sense that trend as well.
I've looked into "organic" farming and the animals are generally treated no better than factory farms. There is, however, a new USDA classification that is a "humane" one. For people who are not wanting to give up animals products entirely - this is the answer. You can check "the meatrix" Web site for a search engine to help you find places that sell humanely farmed products.
Have you heard about this, Matthew?
Matthew Scully: No, haven't heard about any USDA classification of "humane," but offhand I'd tend to be skeptical about it. The safest bet at the moment is to take your business to Whole Foods, or some comparable, smaller store which operates by clear and unequivocal standards of labeling.
What can you advise the people in this country who are lobbying to stop horse slaugher for human consupmtion by the French and Belgians? Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is not allowing the bill to be voted on as he is supported by the huge meat industry. The meat industry in Tex. gets $3.00 per horse that is killed. We want the exploitation of American horses stopped and the foreign slaughter houses closed. What can we do?
Matthew Scully: Hello, fellow Phoenician!
You have named the right man: But for Rep. Goodlatte and his staff, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act would almost certainly have been passed into law earlier this year. The bill had something like 220 cosponsors, including conservative Republicans like Roscoe Bartlett from Maryland and Ed Whitfield from District 1 in Kentucky – thoroughbred country. (And the thoroughbred industry itself is coming around to a consensus that owners owe their horses a peaceful retirement.) In the Senate cosponsors included Sen. John Ensign, a veterinarian, among many others. There was even a meeting about the bill in the White House, with senior staff attending, and all seemed inclined to go forward with a letter of support for the bill. The Secretary of Agriculture, I am told, was also favorably disposed to the bill. Anyway, nothing ever came of it. I suppose there was concern about giving offense Rep. Goodlatte.
If you asked Mr. Goodlatte what his basic objections are, he’d probably say that the bill sets a troubling precedent, and if we make some special allowance for horses then what next? One answer to this is that the slippery slope works both ways: All the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act would do is set a simple standard of decency for animals who have served humanity well, and by general agreement deserve better than the terrors of the packing plant. (That after all is why it’s illegal to slaughter horses for consumption in America.) And if you can’t accept even that standard, then what moral standard are you prepared to support? In practice, we end up with no standard at all.
When will you come to Princeton, N.J., for a Dominion book signing and when will you write another book on animal welfare/animal rights?
Matthew Scully: Nice to feel wanted – thanks! No plans to visit Princeton (though I’d be honored to inscribe a book for you, if you’ll send the washingtonpost.com your address), but I do plan to write much more on the subject of animal welfare.
St. Louis, Mo.:
Matthew, I have found your book very helpful when lobbying to support animal welfare issues in the conservative Missouri state legislature, where the concept of animal welfare is not universally embraced, but is viewed as the slippery slope to animal rights extremism. For example, CAFO's are gaining ground in Missouri and your chapter on pork factories is especially compelling for those who know little or nothing about intensive food animal production.
My question is this: did you make a conscious decision not to include a chapter about puppy mills and the mass production of purebred dogs? I realize you can't write a book on all topics, but I wondered what you thought about these facilities. Missouri is home to more than one third of all commercial dog breeders, and most of those dogs lead lives of permanent confinement, lack of adequate socialization with humans, etc.
Matthew Scully: Thanks, Nancy. I am in complete agreement with you that puppy mills are abhorrent, as local police discover every so often when they raid one of these awful places. And you have a point -- I probably should have given the problem more attention in Dominion.
After 30 years of being a vegetarian, how far past that "respectable" 355 pound bench press are you, and how many meatheads do you know who can duplicate your feat, and live to tell their great grandchildren about it?
Matthew Scully: I’m afraid I’ve maxed out at 355. That feat occurred some time ago, and it’s a good thing I have witnesses.
Maple Lake, Minn.:
I had previously mentioned wanting to reform and introduce new laws to Minnesota regarding animal abuse. What is the likelihood that I or some one may be able to require convicted animal abusers to register with the state and/or federal government as an animal abuser? As well as require pet stores, and people who sell animals from their homes to run a background check and notify the proper authorities if they so choose to sell an animal to a registered offender.
Matthew Scully: All sound like very good ideas to me.
Takoma Park, Md.:
Matthew, you've spent almost three years in the Bush Administration. I believe this has been the most animal-unfriendly administration in history. Why have you now left?
Matthew Scully: I don’t recall any great triumphs for animal welfare during the Clinton-Gore years. The truth is that at the White House and in Congress, you are as likely to find sympathy for animal issues among Republicans as among Democrats. Fine men like Senators Wayne Allard, John Ensign, and Rick Santorum, who have all sponsored important animal-welfare bills, illustrate the point.
As for why I left, I had been planning for quite a while to get back into journalism, and this seemed a good time to make the move.
How can we argue against the wildlife conservation groups that were formerly anti-hunting and are now joining with them to
supposedly protect the very species they are killing?
Matthew Scully: All of these groups you mention -- am I right in thinking that the Sierra Club is among them? -- should be very wary of joining ranks with hunting groups like Safari Club International. The latter, in their reckless disregard for animals and the natural world, are the exact opposite of any group based on respect and compassion toward animals.
Dear Mr. Scully, I have a copy of your book Dominion, and agree with Wayne Pacelle that this will be the most influential book on animal protection in the last 25 years. I'm concerned about your statement on Page 398, "Kindness to animals is not our most important duty as human beings. . . ." Please let me know what is our most important duty? I've been a vegan for 31 years, because that's what I can do best in my small way for animals, human and non-human. I really do hold that kindness to animals is our most important duty if by that we mean taking steps to stop the hideous cruelty which our taxes and lifestyle choices perpetuate daily.
Matthew Scully: Of course, the rest of that sentence you quote is “...nor is it our least important.” The idea there was not to diminish the importance of kindness to animals, but to remind people that like other duties – from loving our neighbor to honoring our parents to caring for one’s children – it’s one essential part of a good life, of living with integrity. If a person is mindful of animals and inconsiderate toward the people around him or her, obviously something would be missing. My point is that the same is true the other way around. When people are cruel or indifferent toward their fellow creatures, no matter how virtuous they might be in other respects, then something important is missing in their lives as well.
How do get our state to provide animal police with arresting authority for animals when this state continues to do cutbacks on funding for state police and local police? We have a shortage of police officers now. This area of Pa. is very rural with minimal care or funding for animal shelters, let alone prosecution for animal abusers. Humans need to be held accountable.
Matthew Scully: It can take a lot of persuading to get local authorities to entrust private agencies with the power of arrest – although as any viewer of “Animal Precinct” knows, the trust is well placed and gives local police forces a valuable ally. The arrangement works well in your own state, too. The Pennsylvania SPCA has seven or eight branches in the commonwealth, and exercises statewide law enforcement authority. Perhaps you and other citizens in Uniontown can persuade the SPCA to extend its reach into your community.
New York, N.Y.:
Thousands of stray dogs and cats are put down ever year. Spaying and neutering would help contain the populations. Neutering is accepted for cattle, horses and many other animals.
Why isn't spaying and neutering made into a law? Why don't we have stricter laws and fees for breeders to prevent puppy mills, preventable genetic dieses (such as deafness and hip diplasia) and unwanted animals? How can we overcome the obstactles to making this the law? How can we get involved to help stop this unnecessary cruelty?
Matthew Scully: I have a book here on the shelf called “Disposable Animals,” about the millions of cats and dogs euthanized ever year in the backrooms of shelters, and the pictures inside are just heartbreaking. If only more people could see them. The happier news is that right there in NYC my friend Ed Boks, who left Phoenix last year to take over Animal Care and Control, is applying a “no-kill” policy to the city. Thanks largely to the ASPCA, New York City also has a law requiring that all cats and dogs from any shelter or humane society be spayed or neutered before release. And across the country, one of my favorite groups, Maddie’s Fund, is saving tens of thousands of lives a year. So don’t lose hope – good people are hard at work on the problem.
I have been thinking about going to law school for animal law because I believe that changing the law is one of the most effective ways to end animal suffering. Do you agree? If not, what would be a good alternative career to maximize my impact on helping animals?
Matthew Scully: I definitely do agree. As either a private attorney or a prosecutor, there is a great deal you can accomplish, and I hope you’ll go that way. Please keep me posted – you can always drop me a line at MatthewScully.com.
Chestnut Hill, Mass.:
I am currently reading your book and find it heartwrenching and informative and so well written.
Thank you for using your talents to be a voice for the animals!
There seem to be many other books on the topic of animal rights, welfare, advocacy and the humane movement. Could you say what a few of your favorites are -- perhaps some other animal advocate authors who have a similar perspective as yours.
Matthew Scully: Thanks for asking. Among my recent favorites is a beautiful book called "The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals," by my pal Jeffrey Masson. Jeff has one of the most well stocked minds I've ever encountered, and great insight and moral sensitivity to go with it. He'd written at least a dozen other books on the subject -- including his classic "When Elephants Weep" -- and you won't go wrong with any of them.
I'm also a great fan of Douglas Chadwick, whose "The Fate of the Elephant" is the best on that subject. And there's a masterpiece I've read more than once about hunting, called "A View to a Death in the Morning."
You might also find it useful to read more about the history of the humane movement, and the authoritative book on that subject is my my friend Bernard Unti of HSUS -- the single most knowledgeable fellow in the animal-welfare cause.
When is your next book being released? We are all waiting!
Matthew Scully: Nice of you to say. Right now I'm focusing on journalism, writing columns and the like. With luck an idea for a second book will come to me one of these days.
New York, N.Y.:
I'm a supporter of President Bush and the VP but I have a tough time when I read they took the day off for quail or bird hunting. How do you handle this? Keep up your great work.
Matthew Scully: I didn't know what to make of that whole expedition myself, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that your respect and support for the VP are well placed.
Matthew, much of what you say about animal abuse, particularly mass, commercial animal abuse, can only come to be viewed as sickening and repugnant -IF- it is exposed. In that regard, why has the Administration - and every Reublican governor in the US - supported the enactment of Animal Enterprise Terrorism laws which make the act of photographing a factory farm a felony?
Matthew Scully: I'd have to look into that detail of the law -- if what you say is correct, I was unaware of it. I do know that when representatives of DOJ testified about the law before Congress, they made the essential distinction between violent groups, which the law should deal with very harshly, and the great majority of animal welfare groups that advance their cause in courts and legislatures.
Royal Oak, Md.:
In Dominion, you state that no real change has ever occurred in our country without the participation of religious leaders. To effectively eliminate the pervasive cruelty to animals by corporate farming, what can the pastor of a church do? Does the church have to wait for 60 Minutes to open the door?
Matthew Scully: Judging at least by the response to Dominion, I like to think that more religious leaders are giving the subject serious attention. I was very glad to get favorable reviews from, for example, Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship, and from various Christian and Jewish publications, all of which acknowledged the moral seriousness of cruelty to animals.
On the Catholic front, a friend of mine in San Francisco recently emailed me a quote I think you will find encouraging. It’s from Cardinal Ratzinger, who is (I forget the exact title) the chief advisor on Catholic doctrine to Pope John Paul II. In a lengthy interview with a German journalist, to be published by Ignatius Press under the title “God and the World,” the Cardinal is asked, “Are we allowed to make use of animals, and even to eat them?” I’ll copy and paste his reply:
“That is a very serious question. At any rate, we can see that they are given into our care, that we cannot just do whatever we want with them. Animals, too, are God's creatures, and even if they do not have the same direct relation to God that man has, they are creatures of his will, creatures we must respect as companions in creation and as important elements in the creation…. [Man] should always maintain his respect for these creatures, but he knows at the same time that he is not forbidden to take food from them. Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.”
So the next question is, if we have this highest of authorities on Catholic teaching saying that factory farming is degrading and contrary to Christian conduct, why do we not hear more on the subject from other Catholic leaders?
Holly Alameda, Calif.:
You could right a book on elephants and the different injustices they face in the world. I don't remember your words exactly but you mention in your book that elephants are so noble that they really deserve our help right next to our companions animals. The circus just left town and I can't believe people still find performing elephants entertaining. Just a thought.
Matthew Scully: A good thought, Holly. I have always felt a special regard for elephants, but researching my book I came to admire and appreciate these noble creatures even more.
New York, N.Y.:
How do you maintain your enthusiasm for this issue when it seems that factory farming and public support for it (from the "farms" themselves, to the legislator who passes animal enterprise terrorism legislation, to the shopper who stands by her right to eat meat and doesn't want to shell out extra money for more humanely raised food) are becoming more, not less, entrenched?
Matthew Scully: Sometimes, when I write on the subject, I just look at images like these from a hog farm these from a stockyard and they help focus my mind.
Also, I’m not sure I’d agree that all trends today are for the worse. Not long ago I had a chance to meet with John Mackey, the founder and CEO of Whole Foods, who told me about a project now underway to certify that every animal product sold in his stores is obtained by humane methods of animal husbandry. As John described it, they’re even planning to have live camera shots from some of the farms, so you can see for yourself, by going to the Whole Foods website, just how the animals are faring.
Great things can come of this. Factory farming came about from a moral race to the bottom, with corporations vying against each other to produce more and bigger animals with less care at lower cost. When one great company like Whole Foods decides withdraw from the race, and hold itself to decent and defensible standards of animal husbandry, the dynamic begins to change, and other companies may soon follow.
What's your perspective on the best way to handle the excess deer population that's a problem in so many suburban areas? I'm no NRA gun expert, but I've read some pretty convincing stuff that says (for example) a particular park can sustain 100 deer over the winter, but there are 600 deer at the end of the summer. Something's going to happen to them--disease, starvation, predation, the dreaded auto accident.
I've been made aware of this because I live in an area where suburbs are gobbling up habitat, and it's rarely a week that goes by when I don't see a dead deer on the road in my neighborhood. Death-by-windshield can't be pleasant for a deer. And lord knows lots of folks are getting hurt and their cars wrecked by these collisions.
If not hunting, what's the best way to control deer populations where they've grown out of whack?
Thanks for your good work.
Matthew Scully: Research by insurance companies has demonstraded that deer-related car accidents actually increase during hunting season, as the terrified animals scatter from their habitat. The whole question of suburban deer, complicated as it is, has to be approached with a basic sense of fairness toward these creatures whose habitats are being destroyed. Humane solutions (fencing along roads, road lighting systems, better planning in development) cost more, but are a lot easier to see and live with than harsh alternatives.
New London, Conn.:
Why haven't more school taken on humane education programs? Will there ever be any education programs that focus on humane education?
Matthew Scully: I've heard from many teachers who either have humane education programs or hope to start one. Very likely we'll see many more of these in the schools within the next generation. They're very helpful, and speak to the natural idealism of young people.
Our hour is about up. Thanks to Matthew Scully and everyone who participated!
Thank you. It was a pleasure.