Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

I knew Matthew Scully, the animal rights movement’s favorite conservative, would attack A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy.  When he did, I expected him to respect readers sufficiently to disclose that I criticized (and praised) his book Dominion.  He didn’t.  I didn’t expect that he would mount his  attack in the National Review. He did.  Oh well. That’s public advocacy.

In due time, I will be responding at length to Scully’s harsh criticisms (about which I alluded the other day), so I won’t belabor the matter now.  But there is a nasty canard in Scully’s review that is so unhinged and provocative that I can’t let it lie on the table until my full reply is prepared.  From his review, “The Cause of Humanity” (no link):

Smith keeps going on about [human ‘moral distinctiveness’], and the euphemisms only get worse in his treatment of animal experimentation. He offers soothing descriptions of violent experiments (chimps are ‘seated quietly, not struggling’ as their limbs are about to be broken).

That is wholly and outrageously false. I never wrote about a chimp experiment that involved breaking their limbs. Indeed, I have never heard of such an experiment. Scully can rail all he wants against my book.  But he has no right to fictionalize what I wrote to score cheap emotional points.  It lacks integrity.

Dear Reader,

We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.

Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on

Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.

Will you give today?

Make My Gift

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles