Matthew Scully and Charles Camosy Are Right

by Mary Eberstadt

Matthew Scully’s extraordinary manifesto “Pro-Life, Pro-Animal,” posted earlier this month here on National Review Online to the tune of 600-plus comments, is just now followed by one more powerful new case connecting the moral dots between the pro-life and pro-animal causes.

For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action by Fordham University theologian Charles Camosy, is in some respects a gentle book — what might be called the pro-animal Venus to Scully’s Mars. Engaging and compassionate, it’s both the personal story of one pro-life vegetarian and also a fascinating tour of (mostly unknown) Christian teaching about animals. Full disclosure: I wrote the introduction, which you can read here. (You can also read Kathryn Lopez’s interview with Camosy on the book here.)

Make no mistake, though: Camosy’s patient logic in connecting solicitude for nonhuman animal life with solicitude for unborn human life is every bit as relentless in its way as the fiercely elegant rhetoric of presidential speechwriter Scully. For that reason among others, both these works demand and deserve the widest possible hearing — especially among conservatives and religious traditionalists.

Four years ago, in an essay called “Pro-Animal, Pro-Life” in First Things that’s cited by both Scully and Camosy, I argued that the pro-life and pro-animal movements were estranged for reasons of accident rather than essence — and that the day could come when these natural moral allies might find each other. The appearance of these two new testimonies in a single month suggest that we might finally be seeing just that.

Of course not everyone will be on board with the idea of going “pro-life all the way” into veganism, as Matthew Scully puts it. And of course, as Charles Camosy writes of his own exploration of what it means to be “authentically pro-life,” the journey from moral intuition to personal action can take years, even decades.

But surely the horrors of factory farming amount to a place where reasonable people on all sides can make a start. Look again, if you can bear it, at the picture that accompanied Scully’s essay; or read for starters Chapter Seven in Camosy’s new book. Surely every moral traditionalist, especially, can send up at least two cheers for a budding moral movement that stands forthrightly against the routine trashing of life, thus expanding rather than contracting our understanding of just how precious creation really is.

— Mary Eberstadt is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author most recently of How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization.