Animals suffer a perpetual winter solstice
by Fiona O’Connell
Sunday Independent, 21st December 2014
Today’s winter solstice means it’s downhill for darkness. But those unfortunate beings we call “livestock” will find their winter solstice happens all year round – and few lament their shortest day.
Many mock me for mourning them. But as Emile Zola said, “the fate of animals is of greater importance to me than the fear of appearing ridiculous; it is indissolubly connected with the fate of man.”
It’s easy to sneer at a seemingly sentimental former city slicker, but more difficult to discount an 80-year-old Warsaw Ghetto survivor who “worked on animal farms while in college, earned a PhD in chemistry, and ultimately decided to devote my life to animal rights, which I have done for nearly 40 years.”
Indeed, it was Dr Alex Hershaft’s experience of farming that led him to note the similarities “between how Nazis treated us and how we treat animals – especially those raised for food. Among these is the use of cattle cars for transport.”
Of which there are no shortage passing through my country town; a mere fraction of the 56 billion farmed animals slaughtered worldwide annually. These steel trucks have slats along the sides for air, through which you can glimpse the captives within. Or else they have an open top, so you occasionally spy a wet nose desperately sniffing the air.
Sometimes three or four trucks a day literally darken my window, for both a horse knackers and abattoir are located nearby. Cameras and checkpoints prohibit anyone except workers from entering those truckloads of doomed creatures.
No wonder some animal rights activists use the word “holocaust” to describe mass animal slaughter. Others object to the word, saying it is offensive to victims of the real holocaust. Yet philosopher Theodor Adorno said: “Auschwitz begins whenever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks they are only animals.” Nobel laureate Isaac Singer believed that, in terms of how we treat our fellow beings: “all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”
For Dr Herschaft, the “negative reaction is largely due to people’s mistaken perception that the comparison values their lives equally with those of pigs and cows. Nothing could be further from the truth.” Rather, “what we are doing is pointing to the commonality and pervasiveness of the oppressive mindset, which enables human beings to perpetrate unspeakable atrocities on other living beings – be they Jews, Bosnians, Tutsis, or animals. It’s the mindset that allowed German and Polish neighbours of extermination camps to go on with their lives, just as we subsidise the oppression of animals at the supermarket counter.”
Of which, if you’ll pardon me, I’ll take no part. For life is short enough as it is, without drawing its deadline nearer for any of us.