There has been a heavy-duty sequence of letters on these pages (and lively online discussion!) over the previous four weeks prompted by the prospect of a slaughterhouse being built in Asheville. Included was an earlier letter by yours truly [“Why Invite a Slaughterhouse to Asheville?” Sept. 28, Xpress].
All but one of the writers in some way referenced the “holocaust of the animals,” likening the mass brutalization and slaughter of farmed animals in this country to Hitler’s Holocaust against Jews, Gypsies and other minorities.
The various letter writers attribute the use of this term to contemporary Israeli Jewish animal rights activists or to Charles Patterson, Holocaust educator and author of Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust(2002). Letter writer Robbie Coleman [“The Continuing Holocaust of Animals,” Oct. 19, Xpress] notes that Patterson, in turn, dedicates Eternal Treblinkato Isaac Bashevis Singer, who lost immediate family members to the Holocaust. Singer stated that for animals, “All people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”
One letter writer, Raymond Capelouto, however, objected to this analogy as offensive to Jews [“Holocaust Comparison Is Disturbing,” Oct. 15, Xpress]. That prompts me to wonder whether Mr. Capelouto might find a more appropriate term to be “slavery” — one that brings the matter right home to our own country’s dismal history.
Writes author Charles Horn (http://avl.mx/33a): “Even though animal slavery is different than human slavery in a number of ways, how is animal slavery not a form of slavery? Are not animals legal property — literally? Are not animals literally bought and sold? Is not farmed and captive animal reproduction forcefully controlled through breeding? If I have taken an animal as my property and taken its very liberty and life as my own to create products out of its carcass, how is that not a form of slavery?”
Further on he continues: “Whenever animal advocates make comparisons to human racism, sexism, slavery, other prejudices and oppressions, and yes, even the Holocaust, it seems inevitable that some people get offended. Such people are often quick to assume that animal advocates are equating animals with able-minded humans in every single respect, when that is not the case at all, and they are simply talking about perfectly valid comparisons of prejudicial thought processes and perfectly valid comparisons of the qualities we still have in common.”
Pick your analogy! There is so much more that could be said here — on the holocaust of the animals, animal slavery, and the list goes on.
For now, I’d like to end on a less scholarly note and circle back to how we live our daily lives by quoting Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary in Australia: “If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?”
— Cynthia Sampson