People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals created its latest manufactured controversy when it launched its “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign in February asking people to compare the suffering of Holocaust victims with the suffering of animals killed for food.
The campaign started in California and features eight 6 foot by 10 foot panels showing victims of the Holocaust juxtaposed with pictures of images of cows, chickens and pigs off to slaughter.
PETA certainly received the publicity it craves — coverage of the story was difficult to miss. But the campaign gave a spin to the animal rights argument that makes the movement easier to dismiss for the vast majority of Americans who know little about it.
Holocaust On Your Plate campaign creator Matt Prescott defended the campaign to everyone would listen. He told the Associated Press,
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 everyday in factory farms.
ABC affiliate WABC published the following transcript of an exchange between its reporter, Jim Dolan, and PETA’s Michael McGraw over the campaign,
Dolan: The suffering of people is absolutely, in your mind, equal to the suffering of animals?
. . .
McGraw: At the root of this campaign is to show people that yes, animals do suffer . . .
Dolan: Are you comparing the suffering that these animals are going through to the suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust? Are they the same in your mind?
McGraw: In many cases, yes.
. . .
They certainly are both atrocities, and I think that we should not choose which atrocities to oppose. I think, as human beings, I think it’s our responsibility to oppose cruelties and atrocities of all kinds.
McGraw and Prescott’s comments just reinforce the ridiculous rhetoric found on PETA’s website in support of the campaign which asks the reader,
Decades from now, what will you tell your grandchildren when they ask you whose side you were on during the “animals’ holocaust”? Will you be able to say that you stood up against oppression, even when doing so was considered “radical” or “unpopular”? Will you be able to say that you could visualize a world without violence and realized that it began at breakfast?
This sort of rhetoric is so bizarre that it’s pointless to waste too much time arguing against it, but Sun Media columnist Michael Coren did have a wonderful, quick dismissal of this absurdity. Coren wrote,
“Just as the Nazis tried to ‘dehumanize’ Jews by forcing them to live in filthy, crowded conditions,” says PETA, “animals on today’s factory farms are stripped of all that is enjoyable and natural to them and treated as nothing more than meat, egg and milk-making machines.”
Nobody has ever accused animal liberation zealots of being intellectual giants, but this one really takes the non-animal product biscuit. They accuse the Nazis of dehumanizing Jews, and immediately compare the plight of Holocaust victims to that of cows, hens and sheep. What is this if not direct dehumanization?
But the real message here is that there is simply no idea too nutty for PETA to champion and, for that, I give some small amount of thanks. PETA seems to think that there is no such thing as bad publicity. That is true if you are some sort of celebrity whose stock in trade depends solely on being noticed. It is not true, however, if you are a fringe ideological movement actually trying to change people’s minds and convince them that granting animals rights would be a good thing.
In that case there definitely is such a thing as bad publicity. Now when it comes to the whole Holocaust comparison, Charles Patterson’s “Eternal Treblinka” book making just this comparison has been out there for a couple years now, but defenders of the animal rights movement could always explain it away as being part of a fringe on a fringe. But PETA, bless their hearts, decided to take up the cudgels for this idiotic thesis and thereby make it impossible to simply put down such nonsense to a minority view even within the animal rights community.
As long as PETA is willing to put itself on the line for such absurd ideas, the animal rights movement doesn’t stand a chance at advancing its agenda.
Critics pounce on animal-rights campaign. The Associated Press, February 28, 2003.
MassKilling.Com. PETA, Accessed February 28, 2003.
PETA’s campaign comparing suffering of livestock to slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust. WABC, February 28, 2003.
Animal liberation bigots. Michael Coren, Sun Media, March 1, 2003.