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March 07, 2003 - Image 28

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-03-07

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Shoah Parallel?

Jewish groups outraged by PETA campaign for animals.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency


New York City
n emaciated death camp sur-
vivor stares blankly alongside
a gaunt steer.
"During the seven years
between 1938 and 1945, 12 million
people perished in the Holocaust," the
image declares. "The same number of
animals is killed every 4 hours for food
in the U.S. alone."
The poster forms the heart of a
national campaign launched last week
by People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals that compares the Holocaust
and the meat industry — and that is
ruffling Jewish feathers.
Dubbed "Holocaust on Your Plate,"
PETA's campaign and its companion
Web site, masskilling.com , insists the
Nazi murder of Jews, gays and gypsies
mirrors "the modern-day Holocaust"
that is the industrialized slaughter of
animals for food. .
Just as the Nazis forced Jews to live in
cramped, filthy conditions, tore children
from parents and murdered people in
"assembly-line fashion," factory farms
cram animals into tiny, waste-filled
spaces, treating cows, chicken and lambs
as meat-, egg- and milk-producing
machines, PETA says.
"It's a direct parallel," said Matt
Prescott, PETA's youth outreach coordi-
nator. One of the campaign's creators,
Prescott, 21, said that as a Jew whose
relatives died in the Holocaust, he finds
the analogy neither "off the wall" nor
"radical," but entirely apt.
Many of his mother's cousins, aunts
and uncles are believed to have been
killed in Buchenwald and Dachau,
Prescott said, adding that his mother's
sense of social justice led him to become
a vegetarian.
PETA cites several Jewish figures as
spiritual forefathers for its campaign,
including Nobel Prize-winning author
Isaac Bashevis Singer and the vegetarian
Torah scholar, Rabbi Shraga Feivel
Singer was a staunch vegetarian whose
fictional characters drew analogies
between Nazism and man's treatment of
animals in books such as Enemies, A
Love Story.
In The Letter Writer from The Seance

3/ 7



and Other Stories, Singer's character
Herman delivers a eulogy for a mouse,
in which he says that "in relation to"
animals, "all people are Nazis: For the
animals it is an eternal Treblinka."
That phrase, "Eternal Treblinka,"
became the title of a book on the sub-
ject by Holocaust educator Charles
Patterson, whose Web site links to the
PETA campaign.
PETA's tactics are raising the hackles
of several Jewish groups and splitting
the Jewish animal-rights community.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean

to the ADLs attention when the animal-
rights activists sought ADL approval for
their effort. "It's chutzpah enough to
compare" the Holocaust and the meat
industry, Foxman said, "but to go to the
Jewish community is double chutzpah!"
Prescott admitted that ADLs response
wasn't what we were expecting, ))
though he added that PETA still would
seek support from other Jewish groups.
Officials at the U.S. Holocaust
Museum in Washington, D.C., have
also expressed outrage and accused
PETA of obtaining the Holocaust pho-


During the seven years between

1938 and 1945, 12 million

people perished in

the Holocaust.

The same

number of animals
is killed EVERY 4 HOURS
for food in the U.S. alone=

An image from PL JAs (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) "Holocaust on your
Plate" campaign.

of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los
Angeles, called thejiolocaust compari-
son "ridiculous."
"No responsible Jewish leader will
have anything against a campaign that
seeks to limit the abuse and torture of
animals," Rabbi Hier said. "But putting
on a Web site the images of the death
camps, and comparing it to chickens
cooped up in a pen, it denigrates the
memory of the Holocaust."
The Anti-Defamation League's
national director, Abraham Foxman,
called the campaign likening animal
abuse to Nazism "outrageous" and
"Rather than deepen our revulsion
against what the Nazis did to the Jews,
the project will undermine the struggle
to understand the Holocaust and to
find ways to make sure such catastro-
phes never happen again," he said.
Ironically, the PETA project first came

tos from the museum under false pre-
In a sharply worded letter, Stuart
Bender, counsel for the U.S. Holocaust
Memorial Council; warned the animal
rights group that it is improperly using
photographic reproductions from the
museum in its "Holocaust on your
Plate" campaign. "We demand that you
immediately and permanently cease and
desist this reprehensible misuse of
Holocaust materials," Bender wrote.
On Tuesday, the animal rights group
responded, insisting that use of the pho-
tographs is "consistent with the muse-
um's mission statement," and claimed
that the project is funded by an anony-
mous Jewish philanthropist. The group
also said it "requested, received and paid
for the use of the photographs" —
claim museum officials vehemently

PETA's campaign has also become an

issue in the Jewish vegetarian communi-
ty. Roberta Kalechofsky, who founded
Jews for Animal Rights and has written
several books on Jewish vegetarianism,
criticized PETA's use of the Holocaust.
The Holocaust "is the end result of a
very complicated, theological, historical,
evolutionary process that went on for
1,700 years," she said, but PETA's use of
the period "is really sucking away all
that history."
By drawing the parallel, PETA
"reduces the meaning of the Holocaust
to physical pain," she added.
Kalechofsky wrote a paper on animal
rights and the Holocaust in which she
drew a distinction between the motiva-
tions of hunters and Nazis. The Nazis
"didn't just want to extinguish Jewish
flesh; they wanted to extinguish Jewish
civilization," she said.
Richard Schwartz, author of Judaism
and Vegetarianism, long has opposed the
use of Holocaust imagery in animal-
rights causes but hoped that PETNs dra-
matic tactics would focus attention on
animal rights.
If PETA's comparison of death camps
to factory farms rouses people from
their "indifference" to the environmen-
tal impact of the meat industry, he said,
"why not look at the questions it raises?"
Schwartz said a routine supermarket
. trip evoked for him "the banality of
evil" in which people buy meat "with-
out considering what's behind it. If
Americans reduced their beef consump-
tion by just 10 percent, he claimed, it
would free up enough grain now used
to feed livestock to feed the 20 million
people every year who die of starvation.
Despite his initial hopes for the cam-
paign, Schwartz changed his mind after
sensing the "rage" from some Jewish
groups and even colleagues. One Web
site, MyJewishLearning.com, gave the
debate prominent play.
Schwartz went so far as to urge PETA
to issue a "clear and unambiguous"
apology for the "deep pain" its
Holocaust campaign has caused. He also
wants PETA to meet with Jewish
groups, who he hopes will add animal
rights and vegetarianism to their own
But PETA remains adamant that the
"similarities" between the Holocaust and
factory farming are worth exploring,
Prescott said. "We're trying to widen the
circle of compassion, and sometimes a
person has to be shocked before they
can begin to accept their own role in an
act of injustice," he said. ❑

— Jewish News Washington correspondent
James D. Besser contributed to this report.

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