The number of occurrences of the distortion of the Holocaust has rapidly increased in recent years. It is barely recognized because this development is not monitored by any organization. One among many motifs that has recurred for decades is the claim of an 'animal holocaust.' This is the comparison or attempt to promote the equivalence of the mass slaughter of animals for consumption with the mass killing of Jews by Germans and their associates in the Shoah.
Much criticism of industrial farming and slaughtering is justified. However, humanizing animals opens the door to a highly flawed discourse. Comparing what happens to animals to the history of Holocaust victims reflects a distorted mindset.
South African born Nobel Prize winner, J.M. Coetzee, wrote about the Holocaust stating that it is a "’terrible crime to treat human beings like units in an industrial process.’ And that cry should have had a postscript: ‘What a terrible crime - come to think of it, a crime against nature - to treat any living being like a unit in an industrial process.’"
The animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has been promoting the animal holocaust distortion concept for decades. In 1983, PETA founder and director, Ingrid Newkirk, claimed that animals were similar to humans. She stated: "A rat is a pig is a boy and 6 million people died in concentration camps, but 6 billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughter houses."
In 2003 PETA organized an exhibition entitled "Holocaust on your Plate." The British daily Guardian wrote that it "juxtaposes harrowing images of people in concentration camps with disturbing pictures of animals on farms. One photograph shows an emaciated man next to another of a starving cow. Another shows a pile of naked human beings, next to a shot of a heap of pig carcasses….Other images compare children behind barbed wire with a picture of pigs looking out from behind bars; crowds of people, with cattle being herded into transports; and people crammed into bunks, with chickens in a battery farm." After massive criticism Newkirk apologized.
In August 2017, animal holocaust distortion was revived in the Netherlands. Roos Vonk, a professor of Social Psychology at the respectable Radboud University in Nijmegen, wrote an article entitled: "To compare the bio-industry with the Holocaust is not so strange." She claimed that people were living amid "a large scale industrial Holocaust" of animals. Vonk also wrote that "one runs the risk of being falsely called an anti-Semite or racist, if one compares industrial halls filled with thousands of pigs between metal and concrete to concentration camps."
The nationwide liberal daily, NRC Handelsblad, raised no object to publishing this article with its Holocaust distorting title and content. Vonk did not however get away easily with her abuse. Journalist, Fritz Barend, reacted in the daily Parool stating "that it was easy to show the maliciousness of Vonk…every child can understand the difference between humans and animals. Animals were still behaving like their ancestors did thousands of years ago."
Barend added that "Professor Vonk hopefully sees it as a sign of human civilization that during her ovulation she isn't jumped on by the first passerby." He concluded that Vonk was implicitly and explicitly comparing his grandparents murdered by the Nazis to fattened pigs, writing: "Vonk, without scruples under the cover of Radboud University and following Hitler, turns my grandparents into pigs."
Vonk then tweeted that Barend had "morphed into his victim role." It was a classic expression to fend off criticism used among others by Holocaust distorters. Afterwards the university issued a press release stating that it found Vonk's comparison "unnecessary and hurtful and regretted that so many people had been hurt by it." It also said that the university's management had spoken with Vonk and she agreed with them.
In yet another national daily De Volkskrant journalist Elma Drayer, recalled Vonk's major missteps in the past. In 2011 this Radboud professor co-authored a research paper that concluded "that people who eat meat have been scientifically shown to be more asocial, more egoistic, less loved and more lonesome than vegetarians." After the publication it was discovered that one of her co-authors, Diederik Stapel, a social psychology professor at Tilburg University, had fabricated all the experimental data on which the paper was based.
It is not by chance that a scandal developed in the Netherlands and that Vonk’s article was published in a national newspaper. The promotion of animal rights in the country has reached absurd levels. In newspaper talkbacks Vonk found a number of supporters. During the national debate a few years ago about whether ritual slaughter without stunning should be forbidden, it became clear that the majority of the Dutch can easier identify with the imagined mindset of a cow, than with that of a Jew who only eats kosher food.
In the Dutch parliament, the Party for the Animals holds five seats out of 150. Even the British writer, George Orwell, who wrote the satire Animal Farm, could not have predicted such a development. We will never know whether he is laughing in his grave about this ludicrous reality.