"Their suffering is intense, widespread, expanding, systematic and socially sanctioned. And the victims are unable to organize in defence of their own interests."Animals live in a continuing holocaust and there is no greater time for when animals needed rights as now. The Animal Holocaust is the mass destruction of animals by humanity and is a direct comparison with Nazi mass murder, particularly of Jews. The animals most often referred to in the Animal Holocaust are domesticated animals that people raise for food. More generally, however, Animal Holocaust victims include any animals and their populations that humans control, systematically abuse or destroy, such as fur-farmed animals, laboratory animals and free-living wild animals.
Henry Spira, Fighting to Win. In Peter Singer (ed): In Defense of Animals. Basil Blackwell: New York. 1985:194 - 208.
The Animal Holocaust resembles the Nazi perpetrated Holocaust in the use of business-like mass slaughter mediated by transports, factory farms (concentration camps) and slaughterhouses (death camps). Other pertinent comparisons are performing experiments on inmates and turning inmates into commodities, such as skin goods and soap. Perhaps the most telling comparison is the contempt for the victims' humane treatment and the widespread disregard for their rights. People today generally do not think of animals as beings who are mutilated, tortured and slain. People see animals merely as 'animals', there for the purpose of satisfying human needs.
No one knows the true figure of how many animals people kill every year. But to get an idea of food animals alone, people worldwide annually kill at least 40 billion chickens and about 300 million beef cattle, over a billion pigs and half a billion sheep and goats (see entries labelled Statistics for more and the sources of these figures). People eat about a quarter billion tonnes of meat annually worldwide (excludes fish and sea food). And the list goes on with fur animals, experimental animals, wild animals and others.
Humanity has killed literally trillions of animals since the Second World War and we are killing them at an accelerating rate as our population increases and the mechanisation for the Animal Holocaust gathers pace. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889 - 1976), shamed for his membership of the Nazi party, is cited as saying in a 1949 lecture: "Agriculture is now a motorized food industry, the same thing in its essence as the production of corpses in the gas chambers and the extermination camps..." (1)
Some animal rights groups juxtapose imagery of the Holocaust and the Animal Holocaust to publicise their campaigns and shock people into admitting the scale and existence of the human abuse of animals. Their message is that animals are not ours to abuse and that we must treat animals with respect.
The Holocaust / Animal Holocaust comparison shows that humanity has the attitude and practical capacity to destroy beings on a vast scale. It makes some people stop to consider their role in the slaughter and even act against it. However, the juxtaposition of Holocaust and Animal Holocaust has angered many people and organisations who see it as an inappropriate and corrupting comparison, tasteless and trivialising because of humanity's (assumed) unique moral basis. They say that the juxtaposition may gain the cause of animal rights some attention in the short-term but will lose it support in the long-run.
The Animal Holocaust is treated in modern books such as Charles Patterson's Eternal Treblinka. (2) The book's title comes from a quote attributed to author and Holocaust survivor Isaac Beshevis Singer, "To animals, all people are Nazis. For them it is an eternal Treblinka."
(1) Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe. Heidegger, Art and Politics. 1990:34. (This quote is sometimes mis-attributed to Heidegger's 1954 essay, The Question Concerning Technology.)
(2) Patterson, Charles. Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust. Lantern Books: New York. 2002.