Thursday, September 09, 2004

Animal Rights Activists Draw Parallels With Holocaust

Phillips Square exhibit a shocker
Equates food animals, Holocaust victims
ANDY RIGA
The Gazette
September 9, 2004

A stark photo of a naked, emaciated man in a concentration camp, juxtaposed against a bone-thin calf on a farm. A photo of dead victims of the Nazis, piled like garbage, next to a shot of a mound of slaughtered pigs.
In Phillips Square at midday yesterday, large, disturbing images from a pro-vegetarian exhibit titled Holocaust on Your Plate greeted passers-by, some of them munching on lunch from a Burger King across the street.
The display, which has angered Jewish groups, made its Canadian debut in Montreal after touring 100 other cities.
Banned in Germany and Britain, it hits Ottawa today and Toronto tomorrow.
Eating meat is akin to Nazism is the message from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known for its graphic, controversial animal-rights tactics.
A young Jewish woman who happened upon the exhibit disgustedly handed a pamphlet back to a PETA activist.
"You can't compare people to animals, especially when you're showing pictures of the Holocaust, people who are starved, their bones sticking out," she said. "It's wrong, it's offensive."
Standing next to one of PETA's eight panels, each measuring about two by 2 1/2 metres, another passer-by said the imagery shocked him.
Halldor Eiriksson was sitting on a bench, eating a turkey sandwich. "I think it's rather tasteless to compare animals" to
the millions imprisoned and killed in concentration camps, he said.
"And, logically, I don't think it makes sense. There are things in the production of meat that are definitely not OK, but their comparison is simply wrong. These animals have been produced for meat. There's a fundamental difference between why they are being killed. They are products, just like soybeans or whatever."
Matt Prescott, the Virginia-based PETA activist who created the exhibit, said he objects to how chickens, pigs and other animals are crammed together, mutilated and killed in factories and slaughterhouses.
PETA is "not saying meat-eaters are the equivalent of Nazis. We're saying anybody who eats meat is guilty of holding the same mindset that allowed the Holocaust to happen. We can take a stand against that every time we sit down to eat by adopting a vegetarian diet."
Prescott, who is Jewish, said most of his mother's family was killed in Nazi camps in Poland.
"As a Jew and as somebody who has family who died in these camps, I think there's no better way to honour the memory of those who died and make sure they didn't die in vain," he said.
But Mayer Schondorf, 74, one of about 7,000 Holocaust survivors living in Montreal, said it's "absolutely unthinkable" to compare the treatment of animals to his years as a child imprisoned in four concentration camps, including Auschwitz.
Schondorf described the camps as "total deprivation, total inhumanity, beatings, watching constantly for every step that you make and trying to survive, being deprived of food and water and being in danger every moment that you'll be taken out for execution or sent to the gas chambers."
Local Jewish leaders were also appalled by PETA's tactics.
To "use the Holocaust as a tool to sensationalize their cause is not only offensive and insulting to the memory of the Holocaust and its survivors but to all humanity," said Ann Ungar, executive director of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre.
Jeffrey Boro, president of the Quebec section of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said the exhibit "trivializes what transpired in the Second World War and the suffering of these people."
Survivors "almost had to live like animals to survive. To be compared to an animal afterward is something that would tear at their souls," he said.