“Animal Holocaust”-Comparison and other Problems

As horrible as it is to witness cruelty like this I think, it’s very problematic to use the term “Holocaust” in the context of describing what happens day by day to nonhuman animals.

WARNING: This article includes images and texts of animal- and human-exploitation. For explanatory reasons, some harsh and inaccurate wordings are used.

As animal advocates and activists we want to build a vegan world. A world that is free from harm and discrimination and full of respect for every living creature. But even if we all have the same goal in mind, I want to consider people to use an emancipated and inclusive path to get there: We cannot tolerate the use of discriminating language and actions.

Artist Jo Friederiks hosts exhibitions under the tagline “The Animal Holocaust”. (souce)

Why not using “Holocaust” for animal exploitation?

The meaning of the word “Holocaust” is defined pretty narrow and mostly describes the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis which killed around 11 Million people. I understand very well the need to describe the inhumane acts people carry out with strong words to give a voice to the voiceless.

But to use the term “Holocaust” is pretty awful for many reasons:

  1. It simply plays down the deaths of millions that happened during the Shoa when “Holocaust” is used outside of it’s genocide context (and no: slaughter is never a genocide because the word is clearly defined as “a specific set of violent crimes that are committed against a certain group with the attempt to remove the entire group from existence or to destroy them.”)
  2. It’s cheap to use a word like this to trigger feelings in people, the pictures and the witness testemonials should be enough to trigger empathy and shame in people connected to animal abuse and -exploitation.
  3. You seem to lack compassion for the survivors of the Shoa. As Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a holocaust-survivor says: “Abusive treatment of animals should be opposed, but cannot and must not be compared to the Holocaust, the uniqueness of human life is the moral underpinning for those who resisted the hatred of Nazis.”
  4. As mentioned, I know there are different meanings of the word and it was historically used for animal victims. BUT: It is inseparable conntected to the murder of millions of people in Nazi-Germany — so you can’t just reclaim it! E.g. you won’t come up with re-using the swatiska today, because it was a symbol for peace in ancient religions — would you?
  5. A language like this used by people fighting for animal rights plays into the hands of them who want us to look like abnormal, psycopathic, tree-hugging and aggressive vegans.
  6. In addition to 5. the missuse of the term “Holocaust” is giving power to (right-wing)-people who support their anti-human agenda (e.g. pointing out that the Shoa was “not as evil” as the treatment of animals nowadays).

… and the list could be continued. But you get the point: Please don’t use this wording (btw. neither a slavery-comparisment!)

I share the anger and sadness about the exploitation of animals in this world. But we must use other language to express ourselves, because this is leading us into problematic spheres!

The german version of the “Holocaust on your plate”-campaign by PETA. (source)

History of misusage.

People for ethical treatment of animals (PETA) hosted a website- and exhibition-campaign in 2005–2009 called “Holocaust on your plate” which got a lot of media attention — as always with PETA’s campaigns. But this time also a German court shut down the campaign, because:

“The complainant’s campaign as a trivialization and banalization of the fate of the Holocaust victims” (Federal Constitutional Court)

With their lookism, sexism and other forms of discrimination, PETA gets harsh critique until today— and also for this anti-human campaign.

Why is this? Because some animal advocates still think it’s accurate:

This user exponentially uses the wordings dedicated to the shoa — very problematic and unnecessary.

Today, there’s a whole site about comparisons of the Holocaust and animal’s oppression, Instagram is full of those pictures, also you can find pictures of people holding up signs with “for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka” (by the famous quote of Holocaust Survivor Isaac Bashevis Singer) or similar, the animal rights group 269life repeatedly used a Holocaust- and slavery-comparisons in their imagery and american-jewish provocateur Gary Yourofsky also likes this comparison.

But does all these anecdotes justify to harm people who are survivors of the holocaust or descendants of enslaved people?

To use “Animal Holocaust” is dangerous.

Animals are exploited and killed in a horrifying, industrialized way — for pure capitalistic reasons. The Holocaust on the other hand, served a completely different purpose: People were killed because of their descent, religion or origin — profit was not in the foreground!

The intense and terrible incidents of the Shoa must never be “distorted” or shortened just so they can be instrumentalized — also not for animal rights! If we carry on this “false comparison”, we play down, ridicule and destroy one of the most important memorial cultures of our recent history.

And all this makes space for anti-semites, racists and anti-humans. Do you want these ideologies in a social justice movement?

It doesn’t minimize any harm for animals if we shorten historic events just to prove that we exploit animals in horrifying ways. That doesn’t make sense!

It’s enough to speak the truth.

We have enough evidence at our hands to point out how terrible our behavior towards animals is: Footage from factory- or organic farms that treat nonhuman animals cruel and slaughterhouses that end the animal’s lives far too early.

However, we can dispense with drawing parallels where there are none — just to underline our fight for (animal) justice. We do not need this as an activist and it falsely reduces the historical context.

“But what sense does it make to say that we should treat one group instrumentally in order to help another group?” (The Abolitionsist Approach)
Please see this as an urgent and clear invitation not to make such comparisons — because the claim “non humans first” is a dangerous one!

Mario. Visual Storyteller from Berlin.

My passion is making videos and writing for “the good cause”. Please feel free to share and ask questions! :)