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

by Matthew Scully

New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002

Realism is seeing reality. And the two hardest realities are life and death. We share with animals in the fellowship of both, and there never was a better reason to be kind and merciful than the leveling death which will find us all. (p. 46)

'Killing "for sport" is the perfect type of that pure evil for which metaphysicians have sometimes sought. Most wicked deeds are done because the doer proposes some good to himself ... [but] the killer for sport has no such comprehensible motive. He prefers death to life, darkness to light. He gets nothing except the satisfaction of saying, "Something that wanted to live is dead. There is that much less vitality, consciousness, and, perhaps, joy in the universe. I am the Spirit that Denies."' (p. 77, from The Modern Temper (1929) by Joseph Wood Krutch, as quoted in A View to a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature Through History (1993) by Matt Cartmill)

I know that vegetarianism runs against mankind's most casual assumptions about the world and our place within it. And I know that factory farming is an economic inevitability, not likely to end anytime soon. But I don't answer to inevitabilities, and neither do you. I don't answer to the economy. I don't answer to tradition and I don't answer to Everyone. For me, it comes down to a question of whether I am a man or just a consumer. Whether to reason or just to rationalize. Whether to heed my conscience or my every craving, to assert my free will or just my will. Whether to side with the powerful and comfortable or with the weak, afflicted, and forgotten. (p. 325)

Meat is today a luxury item, large-scale livestock farming an irrational and inefficient enterprise, and the suffering it inflicts morally untenable. It will not do to say, with writer David Plotz in the online magazine Slate, that "Calves are adorable, but veal is delicious. ... God gave man dominion over the beasts of the earth [and] if an animal has economic utility, we should farm it." That is not a serious argument. It is an excuse for evading serious argument, for doing what he pleases and getting what he wants, the whims of man in their familiar guise of the will of God. Nor is it any answer to say, with Judge Richard Posner, that the law should be neutral and let corporate farmers answer to "consumer preference" alone. When the law sets billions of creatures apart from the basic standards elsewhere governing the treatment of animals, when the law denies in effect that they are animals at all, that is not neutrality. That is falsehood, and a license for cruelty. (p. 389)

If we cannot do something humanely, without degrading both the animals and ourselves, then we should not do it at all. (p. 391)

Kindness to animals is not our most important duty as human beings, nor is it our least important. How we treat our fellow creatures is only one more way in which each one of us, every day, writes our own epitaph -- bearing into the world a message of light and life or just more darkness and death, adding to the world's joy or to its despair. (p. 398)