A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Paul Ryan-Matthew Scully: The Very Odd Couple

author Matthew Scully (Dominion)
photograph in his house in Arlington, VA for the Federal Paper Oct. 3. 2002

by Hector EmanuelIf you think Romney and Ryan are an odd couple, here’s an even odder one: Paul Ryan and Matthew Scully.

Not sure who I’m talking about? Scully, a passionate, vegan, animal advocate, has long been one of the top speech writers for high-level Republicans.

He left George W. Bush’s White House in order to write his book Dominion – The Power of Man, the Suffering of the Animals, and the Call to Mercy.

A New York Times review called Dominion “a horrible, wonderful, important book…. 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.”

Four years ago, Scully was back in high-level politics as the writer of Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech. He also wrote speeches for V.P. Cheney and Dan Quayle.

And now he’s been tapped to put the words in Paul Ryan’s mouth as the presidential campaign gains steam.

scully-bush-082212Scully has written passionate editorial columns to help bring an end to the use of gestation crates for mother pigs at factory farms. And it’s always good to know that there are people who care about the animals at a high level in either party. But how does he square his deep concern for nonhuman animals with the work he does for the likes of Palin, Cheney, Bush and now Ryan, all of them are committed hunters to this day?

Ten years ago, when I first talked with Scully, he was looking for help to take care of some feral cats – and one in particular who was hanging around the White House. Scully wanted to protect her, but to stay low-profile so she didn’t end up in sight of the secret service. (Actually, he confided, some of the secret service guys were looking after her and making sure she had food and water.)

“Bow hunting inflicts more suffering and increases the likelihood of wounded animals running off to die a slow death.”That story in itself kind of summed up how Scully managed to balance his work for the administration with his concern for the animals. In Dominion he pulls no punches when he talks about his visit to the Safari Club and his contempt for the people in high political (and military) office whose chief hobby is killing all kinds of animals. 

“Conservatism,” he said, “is defined by a moral understanding of human beings and our obligations.”

But when I asked him how he reconciled his deep convictions with the fact that so many of the people he worked for were avid hunters, he just wouldn’t go there.

“I’m not going to talk about the President,” he said, “except to say that I have quite a respect for him. He has my complete respect.”

Scully would probably say the same today about how he squares his core convictions with his work for Paul Ryan, who is an avid bow hunter. Here’s what he said to me 10 years ago:

Most hunters today are hunting captive animals … animals without the least chance of escape, hunting animals sometimes imported from the zoos. They’re hunting animals now that are actually bred to be hunted, even genetically engineered so they have the best rack and therefore make the best trophies.

[The animals] are part of creation. They have their own place and their own needs, and should be respected on their own turf. But sport hunting is becoming a very grubby and tawdry business, and it needs serious examination by the law.

Bow hunting is another example. My Lord, bow hunting inevitably inflicts more suffering on these animals. It makes hunting less reliable and greatly increases the likelihood of wounded animals running off to die a slow death somewhere.

I try to point in the book to the standards that the people themselves profess. In the case of hunters we have all sorts of lofty standards they supposedly live by, but in reality don’t!

I guess that applies to all politicians. But it’s hard to square the “pro-life” beliefs of so many politicians and preachers with their utter lack of concern for nonhuman life.

And it must be doubly hard for a writer like Matthew Scully to square his deep convictions with the way he makes his living.