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.
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.