An American professor, Charles Patterson in his book Eternal Treblinka has compared the abuse of animals with the Holocaust. The industrialized assembly-line for slaughtering animals, according to him, provided the model, in several important ways, for the slaughtering of humans in the Holocaust. Many victims of the Holocaust saw the horror and became determined to work to prevent and stop future horrors.
After reading Eternal Treblinka, the differences between Nazi Germany and modern America suddenly seem to be just a bit less. In Eternal Treblinka we are presented for the first time with extensive evidence of the profoundly troubling connections between animal exploitation in theUnited Statesand Hitler’s Final Solution.
This book explores the similar attitudes and methods behind modern society’s treatment of animals and the way humans have often treated each other, most notably during the Holocaust. The first part of the book describes the emergence of human beings as the master species and their domination over the rest of the inhabitants of the earth.
The second part examines the industrialization of slaughter (of both animals and humans) that took place in modern times.
The last part of the book profiles Jewish and German animal advocates on both sides of the Holocaust.
The book is about similar attitudes and methods behind our society’s treatment of animals and the way people have often mistreated each other throughout history, most notably during the Holocaust. This parallel may surprise some people, but as contended in the book, the exploitation of animals was the model and inspiration for the atrocities people committed against each other, slavery and the Holocaust being but two of the more dramatic examples
In many ways, the book is based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s vision what he expressed in his stories, novels, memoirs, and interviews.
In Singer’s short story, “The Letter Writer,” he writes about a man (he lost his entire family in the Holocaust) who befriends a mouse. For the book’s epigraph I chose a passage from that story, the last part of which reads: “In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.” That’s where the book’s title comes from.
Our society is built on institutionalized violence against animals.
The late AIDS and animal activist Steven Simmons described the attitude behind the way our society treats animals as follows:
“Animals are innocent casualties of the world view that asserts that some lives are more valuable than others, that the powerful are entitled to exploit the powerless, and that the weak must be sacrificed for the greater good.”
I do not agree with those who insist on making the Holocaust a sacred shrine that’s isolated from the rest of history and the rest of the world. The book relates it to the human arrogance behind animal exploitation and the vast array of injustices against humans which have flowed from it. I think the attempt to fossilize the Holocaust and keep it separate from and unrelated to the rest of history is an insidiously subtle form of Holocaust denial.
The claim that the exploitation and destruction of the other inhabitants of the earth is “trivial” says a lot about the person making such a claim. Even those who care only about human life should recognize that our exploitation and killing of animals is very bad for human beings as well, since animal agriculture and animal-based diets are having devastating effects on human health, ecosytems, water and other scarce resources, and worldwide hunger.
In the opening chapter you write that a number of historians and environmentalists have pointed to the passage in the Bible, in which God grants humanity “dominion” over the earth (Gen. 1:28) as the main culprit in western civilization’s destruction of the environment and mistreatment of animals. This is despite the fact that Jewish tradition interprets that “dominion” passage as responsible stewardship and guardianship rather than as domination.
Judaism had little to say about how that passage was interpreted in western history since it was Christians, not Jews, who created European Christendom. As a result, the Genesis “dominion” passage found in the so-called Old Testament–the Greek (Septuagint) and Latin (Vulgate) Bibles and then after the Reformation in the Bibles translated into English, German, French, etc.–was interpreted by Christian theologians, not Jewish sages.
The second point that needs to be made is that what’s in the sacred texts of a religion is not necessarily what gets implemented. Religious adherents too often do not walk the talk of their religion. What a religion professes and what it practices are frequently not the same thing.
There is a connection between the mistreatment of animals and the mistreatment of people. The exploitation and slaughter of animals was and is the model and impetus for human oppression and violence–war, terrorism, slavery, genocide, and the countless other atrocities we humans persist in inflicting on each other. The book shows how the enslavement (“domestication”) of animals led to human slavery, how the breeding of domesticated animals led to compulsory sterilization, euthanasia killings, and genocide, and how the assembly-line slaughter of animals led to the assembly-line slaughter of people. A better understanding of these connections should help make our planet a more humane and livable place for all of us-people and animals alike. A new awareness is essential for the survival of our endangered planet.
One can only hope the book helps our society recognize, acknowledge, and take responsibility for our horrific treatment of animals and helps curb our arrogant attitude toward the earth and the rest of its inhabitants that is causing such environmental havoc. One can only hope for an abrupt halt to our relentless killing of calves, sheep, chickens, pigs, horses, and all the other innocents, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen soon.
Aren’t terrorism, genocide, nuclear attacks on cities, and the killing of billions of innocent creatures, all part of a single network of violence? Shouldn’t we resist this whole arrangement?
On the other hand, we need to find some common ground and some compassion for everyone in this violent system. Do we not benefit from this economic system and enjoy unprecedented civil liberties?
Were not many of us meat-eaters once, and are not many of our friends still perpetrators, bystanders, and victims in this system?
Henry Ford not only got the assembly-line model from Chicago slaughter houses, but also helped spread anti-Semitic literature throughout Europe.
So far as treatment of animals is concerned, there is little here that will surprise vegetarians.
Castration, mutilation, confinement, the slaughterhouse — you’ve heard it all before. What will surprise many vegetarians is the way humans treat other humans. While the book may not force vegetarians to re-evaluate their attitude toward animals, it will force us to re-evaluate our attitudes towards humans. Patterson states that “[Hitler’s] worldview lives on in the land of the victors.” In light of this conclusion, what precisely do we share with American culture?
We must walk a fine line here. — Keith Akers
A nobel laureate in literature, J.M. Coetzee, has also compared the Nazis’ treatment of Jews to methods used by the meat industry to herd and slaughter cattle.The comparison began immediately after the end of World War II, when Jewish writers recounted the lack of resistance by European Jewish victims of the Holocaust, who were led to their death as “sheep to slaughter.” The ADL argues, however, that the subsequent use of Holocaust imagery by animal rights activists is a “disturbing development.”
Some like Roberta Kalechofsky of Jews for Animal Rights, in her essay Animal Suffering and the Holocaust: The Problem with Comparisons, argues that, although there is “connective tissue” between animal suffering and the Holocaust, they “fall into different historical frameworks, and comparison between them aborts the … force of anti-Semitism.”
Jewish author Isaac Bashevis Singer, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978, says: “In relation to animals, all people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka.” When it comes to animals, every man is a Nazi.”
J.M. Coetzee, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003, invoked the image of the slaughterhouse in describing the Nazi’s treatment of Jews: “… in the 20th century, a group of powerful and bloody-minded men in Germany hit on the idea of adapting the methods of the industrial stockyard, as pioneered and perfected in Chicago, to the slaughter — or what they preferred to call the processing — of human beings.”
It is “easy to see the resemblance of the systematic destruction and slaughter of over six million Jews by the Nazis before and during World War II and the over 20 million animals that are executed every day inAmericaalone. Many of the Jews of the Holocaust were transported to concentration camps in cattle cars to their death. The concentration camps very much resemble the common slaughterhouses of today.”
The Holocaust stands for much more than the one event. It represents a place and time when supremacist thinking was so embedded in a culture that they were blind or apathetic to the evil that existed in their everyday world. This kind of thinking is not exclusive to just that time and place. The great blind spot of our country and Western Civilization for that matter is the mistreatment and disregard for non-human animals in nearly every capacity.”
Ingrid Newkirk, the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has herself made the comparison unambiguously, saying: “Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses.”
The very same mindset that made the Holocaust possible – that we can do anything we want to those we decide are ‘different or inferior’ – is what allows us to commit atrocities against animals every single day. … The fact is, all animals feel pain, fear and loneliness. We’re asking people to recognize that what Jews and others went through in the Holocaust is what animals go through every day in factory farms.”
“While I sympathize with PETA’s aim—and am a member of PETA—I objected to this use of the Holocaust… The agony of animals arises from different causes from those of the Holocaust. Human beings do not hate animals. They do not eat them because they hate them. They do not experiment on them because they hate them, they do not hunt them because they hate them. These were the motives for the Holocaust. Human beings have no ideological or theological conflict with animals.”
In July 2010, theGerman Federal Constitutional Courtruled that PETA’s campaign was not protected by free speech laws, and banned it withinGermanyas an offense against human dignity.
Carol J. Adams’s original, provocative book The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory makes a major contribution to the debate on animal rights by exploring a relationship between patriarchal values and meat eating by interweaving the insights of feminism, vegetarianism, animal defense, and literary theory.
The New York Times called it “a bible of the vegan community.” When it first appeared in 1990, Library Journal called The Sexual Politics of Meat.”
Depiction of animal exploitation as one manifestation of a brutal patriarchal culture has been explored in two books by Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat and Neither Man nor Beast: Feminism and the Defense of Animals. Adamsargues that factory farming is part of a whole culture of oppression and institutionalized violence. The treatment of animals as objects is parallel to and associated with patriarchal society’s objectification of women, blacks and other minorities in order to routinely exploit them. Adamsexcels in constructing unexpected juxtapositions by using the language of one kind of relationship to illuminate another. Employing poetic rather than rhetorical techniques, Adams makes powerful connections that encourage readers to draw their own conclusions.
A clearheaded scholar joins the ideas of two movements–vegetarianism and feminism–and turns them into a single coherent and moral theory. Her argument is rational and persuasive….New ground–whole acres of it–is broken by Adams.
An important and provocative work…the author provides a compelling case for inextricably linking feminist and vegetarian theory. This book is likely to both inspire and enrage readers across the political spectrum.
The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams examines the historical, gender, race, and class implications of meat culture, and makes the links between the practice of butchering/eating animals and the maintenance of male dominance. Read this powerful new book and you may well become a vegetarian.
With this bold and provocative book, a powerful champion of animal rights has entered the lists, challenging the patriarchal domination of the Western world’s eating habits.
Carol Adams’s (1990) provocative analysis of the masculinist privileging of meat eating, and of feminist interventions to destabilize Western patriarchal (animal) consumption, is a classic.
Echoing through the debates about animals are unmistakable invocations of familiar racist and sexist ideologies about ‘natural affinities,’ categories authorized by nature, destinies inscribed in biology, and ‘scientific proofs’ of the limited capacities of the ‘other’ that have rumbled through the centuries to justify slavery, the oppression of women, and ethnically and racially based holocausts and genocides. Two early feminist works remain unsurpassed trenchant analyses of these parallels: Marjorie Spiegel’s comparison between animal and human slavery, The Dreaded Comparison (1988) and Carol Adams’s treatise on the Sexual Politics of Meat (1990).
–Joni Seager, “Rachel Carson Died of Breast Cancer: The Coming Age of Feminist Environmentalism” Signs 28, no. 1 (Spring 2003), pp. 445-72.
In Nature Ethics: An Ecofeminist Perspective, Marti Kheel explores the underlying worldview of nature ethics, offering an alternative ecofeminist perspective. She focuses on four prominent representatives of holist philosophy: two early conservationists (Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold) and two contemporary philosophers (Holmes Rolston III, and transpersonal ecologist Warwick Fox).
Kheel argues that in directing their moral allegiance to abstract constructs (e.g. species, the ecosystem, or the transpersonal Self) these influential nature theorists represent a masculinist orientation that devalues concern for individual animals.
Seeking to heal the divisions among the seemingly disparate movements and philosophies of feminism, animal advocacy, environmental ethics, and holistic health, Kheel proposes an ecofeminist philosophy that underscores the importance of empathy and care for individual beings as well as larger wholes.
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