Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cruelty of Animals vs. the Holocaust

In Coetzee's book The Lives of Animals, his character Elizabeth Costello compares the treatment and slaughter of animals to the millions of lives that were lost in the Holocaust. In response to this comment, a poet, Abraham Stern, who was supposed to have dinner with her and many others, writes Costello a letter telling her off for this comparison. I agree with what Stern had to say, "If the Jews were treated like cattle, it does not follow that the cattle are treated like Jews" (50). I believe this comparison was wrongfully said. Even though there are many people who believe there may be a Holocaust among the animals right now, it does not compare to the lives lost over 70 years ago. I know this can be a very controversial topic, but I had to put on my opinion about this comparison.


  1. I completely agree with you and Stern. I understand what Coetzee was trying to do with the analogy, however, it was quite unsuccessful. Why would anyone think to compare the Holocaust to cattle and vice versa? Comparisons much like the one Coetzee made often enrage people especially the people who live in a society that thrives off human exceptionalism. Though I am not of Jewish decent a great deal of my friends are and not only were they offended but I am as well. Costello's analogy was not only offensive but cheap. When it comes to struggle, there should be few comparisons between tragedies because what ends of happening is people feeling like certain events are being invalidated or aren't taken seriously.

  2. I recently had a discussion about this with one of my friends when discussing a particular PETA ad that illustrated this same topic. We came to the conclusion that while although it is not incorrect to compare the two tragedies for their similarities, juxtaposing the two images runs the chance of greatly dismissing The Holocaust. After all, they are two completely different events in history that focus on two unlike frameworks in time and history.

    However, I think in the case of Coetzee, it was important for him to illustrate the similarities between the two occasions in the time that he did it in, after WWII. I just wish there were a different word to describe the similar-yet-historically different event that describe the mass killing of animals to that of the Jewish people.

    The Consistency in Compassion Campaign (CCC), a project of the Northwest Animal Rights Network of Seattle, Washington, argues that "the Holocaust stands for much more than the one event. It represents a place and time when supremacist thinking was so embedded in a culture that they were blind or apathetic to the evil that existed in their everyday world."

    Their main focus is that the mindsets responsible for the mistreatment and disregard of the Jewish community is not exclusive to one time and space. It may very well be that we harness that thinking till this day.