Isaac Bashevis Singers Grandson Defends PETAs Holocaust Campaign in LA Times
- Isaac Bashevis Singer's Grandson Defends PETA's Holocaust Campaign in
Los Angeles Times
Take a moment to read the eloquent defense of PETA's Holocaust
campaign (http://www.masskilling.com/) by the grandson of Nobel Laureate and
Holocaust survivor, Isaac Bashevis Singer. Bashevis was one of the
first to make the comparison between Nazi treatment of Jews and our
treatment of animals, referencing both as a holocaust.
You might want to forward this thoughtful article, with a link to the photos and information about intensive factory farms at: http://www.farmsanctuary.org/gallery/index.htm to others who may not know much about the animal rights movement. Please follow up with a polite discussion with them next week.
(Note: you'll have to cut and paste into a single line in your
browser to view online. Full text appears below if link to text has
Animals Suffer a Perpetual 'Holocaust'
By Stephen R. Dujack
Stephen R. Dujack is the editor of an environmental magazine in
Washington and a writer.
April 21, 2003
Isaac Bashevis Singer fled Nazi Europe in 1935 and came to this
country. He married my grandmother, who had escaped from Hitler's
Germany in 1940. He went on to become a lauded author and won the
Nobel Prize for literature in 1978. His family -- those who stayed
behind -- were killed in the concentration camps.
My grandfather was also a principled vegetarian. He was one of the
first to equate the wholesale slaughter of humans to what we
perpetrate against animals every day in slaughterhouses. He realized
that the systems of oppression and murder that had been used in the
Holocaust were the systems being used to confine, oppress and
slaughter animals. He attributed to a character in one of his books
something he believed in himself: "In relation to [animals], all
people are Nazis. For [them], it is an eternal Treblinka."
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, has come under
fire from the Anti-Defamation League for a campaign highlighting my
grandfather's ideas as well as writings from others -- including
German Jewish philosopher Theodor Adorno, who was forced into exile
by the Nazis, and Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, who was imprisoned in
Dachau -- that compare the suffering of Holocaust victims with that
of farmed animals.
The ADL claims that PETA is exploiting the Holocaust for publicity.
The campaign has sparked debate and controversy in the Jewish
community, but my grandfather would have been proud of PETA's bold
The Holocaust happened because ordinary people chose to ignore the
extraordinary oppression and abuse being inflicted on innocents by
the Nazis. Millions of people went about their daily lives, knowingly
turning a blind eye to the suffering of those they didn't relate to,
those who were deemed "unworthy of life."
My grandfather often said that this mind-set, whether it manifested
itself as the oppression of animals or of people, exemplified the
most hideous and dangerous of all racist principles. As Adorno
said, "Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse
and thinks: They're only animals."
My grandfather was a gentle man who always extended a compassionate
hand to those who could not speak for themselves. He had birds as
pets, but he always left their cages open because he couldn't bear to
see any being behind bars. They used to fly out one window and in
another of his apartment. When asked why he was a vegetarian, he'd
reply, "I'm a vegetarian for health reasons: the health of the
chickens." Because of him, I am also now a vegetarian.
Because of my family's history and the gentle guiding force of my
grandfather, I learned the sad lessons of prejudice and ignorance and
the ways to fight them. I learned that to remember the horrors of the
past is not enough -- we must apply what we've learned and say with
conviction, "Never again." But when we say it, we must mean never
again shall we allow this to happen to anyone, for any reason.
Like the victims of the Holocaust, animals are rounded up, trucked
hundreds of miles to the kill floor and slaughtered. Comparisons to
the Holocaust are not only appropriate but inescapable because,
whether we wish to admit it or not, cows, chickens, pigs and turkeys
are as capable of feeling loneliness, fear, pain, joy and affection
as we are. To those who defend the modern-day holocaust on animals by
saying that animals are slaughtered for food and give us sustenance,
I ask: If the victims of the Holocaust had been eaten, would that
have justified the abuse and murder? Did the fact that lampshades,
soaps and other "useful" products were made from their bodies excuse
the Holocaust? No. Pain is pain.
My grandfather wrote, "[A]s long as human beings will go on shedding
the blood of animals, there will never be any peace. There is only
one little step from killing animals to creating gas chambers a la
Hitler.... There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a
knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is."
We all have the power to stop suffering and misery every time we sit
down to eat.