Activist James Aspey: Animal rights is an anti-holocaust movement

Two pigs lying, one pig standing in a crate, they look miserable
Pigs going to the slaughterhouse, ©Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Australian animal rights activist James Aspey has been getting a lot of backlash, but also support, for calling the killing of billions of animals yearly the Animal Holocaust.

The literal meaning of holocaust is “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale, especially caused by fire or nuclear war”. In history, the Holocaust often refers to the World War II genocide of Jews, so some people felt offended that Aspey used the word holocaust.

The Animal Holocaust refers to the genocide of billions of animals yearly, Aspey said on his social media accounts. “The Animal Holocaust has nothing to do with Jewish people. Stop fighting me and fight to end the (animal) holocaust.”

“People are trying to shame me, silence me, cancel me and slander me to stop me using the word holocaust when referring to the current reality of farmed (enslaved) non-human animals,” Aspey said in a post.

“What they don’t realize is I have been thinking about this, reading and discussing these points for years. I have come to my conclusion to use this term not on a whim, but after years of consideration,” he continued.

“I’ve heard both sides of the story. I’ve made my choice. The animals need their situation represented accurately and powerfully.”

“Even when people watch footage of animal slaughter, many still don’t connect. They will connect when we have a movement of people describing it as a holocaust and backing it up with logic because it is a fact,” Aspey said.

“Animal rights is an anti-holocaust movement! Let’s make never again actually mean something! I will never stop calling it what it is!”


An Eternal Treblinka
Aspey is not the first person to call the killing of billions of animals a holocaust. Jewish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978, said in The Letter Writer: “In relation to (animals), all people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka.”

Alex Hershaft, a Jewish holocaust survivor, has stated: “My first-hand experience with animal farming was instrumental (to becoming a vegan animal rights activist). I noted the many similarities between how the Nazis treated us and how we treat animals, especially those raised for food.”

Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, a pacifist and Holocaust victim who was sent to Dachau concentration camp for “being a strong autonomously thinking personality”, wrote in his Dachau Diaries: “I have suffered so much myself that I can feel other creatures’ suffering by virtue of my own”.

“I believe as long as man tortures and kills animals, he will torture and kill humans as well -and wars will be waged- for killing must be practiced and learned on a small scale,” he said.

Same mindset
Ingrid Newkirk, the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), also made the comparison: “Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses.”

In 2003, PETA’s “Holocaust on your Plate” exhibition consisted of eight 60-square-foot (5.6 m2) panels, each pairing images of the Holocaust with images of factory-farmed animals.

The exhibition was funded by an anonymous Jewish philanthropist and created by Matt Prescott, who lost several relatives in the Holocaust.

Prescott said: “The very same mindset that made the Holocaust possible – that we can do anything we want to those we decide are ‘different or inferior’ – is what allows us to commit atrocities against animals every single day.”

“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 every day in factory farms.”


Aspey’s recent posts on The Animal Holocaust stirred an interesting discussion in the comments. Some people felt Aspey was being insensitive to the suffering of Jewish people, while others completely agreed with him.

Many Jewish people responded too, some saying they felt hurt by Aspey’s post, while others said that they’re not offended by the word, and that every holocaust is equally horrible.

“I actually became vegan through a really bad argument with someone over the topic of comparing today’s holocaust of animals to Hitler’s. As a Jew, I was offended and taken to hear someone put the two in the same category,” someone said in the comments.

“But, that’s what made me vegan, realizing it is a Holocaust, and as soon as I put it together and realized they are each their own event and it is not demeaning to the 1940 Holocaust to call mass animal slaughter, the Holocaust, I was vegan.”

Another person said: “I’m Jewish, and this is absolutely slavery and holocaust. I’ve had African-American friends delete me because I said it was the same thing as slavery. I’ve had family members get angry because I’ve said for years this is a holocaust. But that’s exactly what this is.”

“I’m Jewish and have been vegan for three years. I often find myself in a similar debate with my Jewish family. I in no way am offended by simply defining the systematic and calculated mass genocide of non-human animals as nothing less of a Holocaust.”

Some people also mentioned that the term holocaust is not only exclusive to Jewish people. “Any Armenian person will tell you their ancestors survived a holocaust in 1918. The term is not exclusive to one race.”

Animals are not less than humans
A lot of the comments had people questioning why people feel so superior to animals that not even the word holocaust can be used to describe what animals are going through.

“Anyone who thinks it isn’t a holocaust obviously believe animals are so far below them that they are not worthy of the word,” animal rights activist Joey Carbstrong commented.

“People have belittled animals so much that they find it offensive to compare human suffering to animal suffering,” Trevor said.

“Animals are so oppressed that comparing their oppression to human oppression is seen as some sort of crime. How human suprematist can you get?” another person said.

“Human Holocaust survivors call this holocaust too, and they know what they are talking about,” someone commented.

“If I was Jewish, I would be more upset about gas’s chambers being referred to as ‘humane killing’ by the meat industry,” another said.

“Well. I wasn’t completely vegan before. I 100% will be now,” Austin Meyers said in the comment after seeing Aspey’s post.

On a mission
Aspey is best known for not talking for a year to raise awareness for animal cruelty. The 34-year old stopped talking on 1 January 2014. He broke his silence on 13 January 2015 on the Australian morning show Sunrise.

He has given hundreds of free speeches on animal rights, tattooed his body for 24 hours to raise money for three charities and posted endless materials on his social media accounts to inspire people to go vegan.

In his most recent post, he announced big things are coming to end The Animal Holocaust.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Indeed a controversial topic. I am the daughter of WWII Holocaust survivors and clearly see the parallel between the 2 Holocausts have been using that term for years, because for me it resonates the truth. Indeed Alex Hershaft and other WWII Holocaust survivors recognize and utilize the term Animal Holocaust too. I have defended the term both via the fact that the term existed before WWII and that the many a survivor use it too. Though of late I have been rethinking it.
    My goal being:
    To open the mind and heart of the nonvegan that they too might recognize it to be an Holocaust and feel the need to end it.
    Though lately I’ve begun to examine it all.
    I am asking myself if the term Holocaust might in some circumstances be counterproductive in that instead of the foucus being on the plight of the Animals the focus is redirected to “Offended humans” or my right to use that term.
    I might in some circumstances have instead of opening a bridge of communication have unintentionally made them build a wall of anger and defence.
    Hence, that brings me to the question of “Am I opening more bridges than building walls?”
    And the question of ‘if there might be an alternative term that conveys accurately the HORRIBLE and injust plight of the animals and yet doesn’t alienate anyone at all?’
    I am yet thinking about it.

  2. And don’t forget the Japanese wartime atrocities often referred to as the “Asian holocaust” in which tens of millions of Asians of various ethnicities were massacred, raped, enslaved, pillaged, experimented on (maruta of Unit 731) in the late 19th to thr first half of the 20th century, much like the way the Jews, Roma, homosexuals, etc were oppressed.

    To those who get offended when terms such as “animal holocaust” or “animal slavery” are used: While I understand the trauma and am wholly against oppressions against populations of ALL ethnicities, races, religions, sexual orientations, species, etc, why do you feel that these terms should be exclusively used to describe certain plights in history, and not others? Ask yourself where your feeling of offense stems from in the first place. Do you feel that certain groups are the “ultimate victims” of humanity, and other groups’ pain are not worthy of consideration as a “holocaust,” “slavery,” “inferno,” etc? Why the double standard?
    “Holocaust” (with a capital H) does indeed refer to the mass murder of Jews, Roma, homosexuals, etc under the German Nazi regime in mid-20th century. However, as you mentioned, “holocaust” (with lower case h), meaning “any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life,” is not reserved for a specific ethnic or racial group of humans or species. Nor is the word “slavery” reserved to refer solely to Africans who suffered in the oppressive grips of their slavemasters centuries past. Do not forget that slavery existed for millennia throughout human history in different parts of the world by various ethnic groups, and believe it or not, slavery still exists today in multiple parts of the world. Also, do not overlook the suffering of over 10 million (the actual numbers are estimated to be many times greater) Asians of various ethnicities who were massacred, raped, enslaved, experimented on (maruta of Unit 731), and suffered under the oppression of the Japanese Empire in the late 19th to the first half of 20th century, much like the way Nazis oppressed their victims. The wartime atrocities that took place in Asia (often referred to as the “Asian holocaust,” but refuted by a few as “undeserving” of the title) hardly gets a mention in Eurocentric textbooks, and the Japanese government, to this day, is in denial of its atrocities and continues to fabricate, omit facts from its education system. Even to this day, there are countless cases of Koreans, Chinese, and other non-Japanese Asians living in Japan encountering systemic discrimination perpetuated by the vestiges of the values glorified by the Japanese Empire. The tremendous anguish and genocide of Armenians, Cambodians, Rwandans, Native Californians, and more are often marginalized and ignored as well. To attempt to “trademark” and reserve these generic terms for specific occurrences in history is not only ethnocentric, but completely dismisses, excludes, and marginalizes the suffering of various other groups of ethnicities, races, species, etc.

    My ancestors lived through oppression, yet I will not say their pain is the one and only, ultimate suffering. While what they went through is intolerable, I will also not overlook the suffering of others by barring them from using certain terms nobody owns to begin with. A victim of rape does not walk up to another victim of rape and tell her/him, “Do not dare call yourself a ‘victim of rape’ as well, because my suffering is the only one that must be acknowledged as pain.” Instead, they connect, empathize, and may go to the extent of fighting against injustices together.

    Oppression is oppression. Victims are victims. Injustice is injustice. Suffering is suffering, regardless of magnitude, race, ethincity, species, sex, religion, era, intent, and myriads of other factors. I hope we can all focus on liberating all victims of oppression, both human and non-human animals, see facts and reality objectively as they are, without marginalizing, diluting, and overlooking their immeasurable torment. Let’s face it. Humans have been for millennia, and are still needlessly causing massive torture of trillions of non-human animals annually, and majority are still completely oblivious to the fact that they’re partaking in this abhorrent act. An animal’s misery is NO LESS than a human’s, and to think otherwise is an anthropocentric delusion, which we must all snap out of. We are all animals.

  3. Actually there are 4 definitions of which the Holocaust in Europe is listed as one of them. It’s greatly connected to that event, which only happened a mere 80 odd years ago (my grandmother is still alive and this would set off her PTSD). Though the definition is not what I’m concerned about, it is the tokenism of using trauma to make your point. It’a using a traumatic event (Jewish, nuclear, environmental- you name it) to use it ‘against’ the other person. That is wrong. That is why people are kicking off. If you have the choice not to use a modern traumatic historical event (in which you do, many successes have come from other methods) then why don’t you? In the same way it’s being advocated that if you had a choice not to eat meat, why don’t you? Just because a Jew made the connection, doesn’t mean it can be tokenised. The memes clearly show a comparison of dead bodies to dead animals. You want to be anti-speciesist? You need to think about animals AND humans. Not just one or the other. James is a cop out. I have being thinking about this long and hard too and I would never use this method.

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