Charles Patterson, author of Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust, spoke yesterday at Goldwin Smith Kaufman Auditorium concerning his book and the contemporary attitudes towards the treatment of animals.
In an event sponsored by the Cornell Coalition for Animal Defense, Patterson drew a parallel between the treatment of Jewish prisoners throughout the Holocaust and the domestication and treatment of animals. Patterson argued that the degrading means by which people treat animals is carried over in the practices implemented in human persecution, as seen in the Holocaust.
Patterson’s thesis of his book and lecture is that the way people deal with animals has colored and shaped how we treat each other. “The way you treat animals in the backyard permeates your attitude and how you treat other human beings in the front yard,” said Patterson.
Patterson stated that the the concept of human supremacy has driven humans to command animals since the “Agricultural Revolution.” Humans began, and continue, to take animals captive and control their lifestyle, breeding, and future. In many cases, this future leads to the gathering of products such as milk and the subsequent slaughtering to obtain meat.
Patterson argued that the Nazis applied the same theory of “might over right” when controlling the Jews and commanding most of Europe. The way the Jews were gathered and herded into concentration camps is similar to the collection and containing of animals, such as cows. “Once we do things to animals, we get the idea that this can be done to other living beings – including human beings,” said Patterson.
Patterson described that the way the Jews were gathered — herded nakedly into large chambers and shower rooms — is similar to the gathering of animals today. Patterson explained that the Nazis treated their captives this way because it was a dehumanizing and uniform process that eased guilt attributed to the controlling Nazi commanders and soldiers. In fact, Rudolph Hoess, a commander at Auzchwitz, had agricultural experience which was directly reflected in his herding of and treatment of prisoners.
Patterson also described how the Nazis adopted the eugenics movement, which was initially applied to the breeding of animals, to humans. The eugenics movement is the idea that by breeding only the healthy, strong, and successful individual species, a population can increase its productivity and overall status. Just as farmers breed strong, potent animals in hopes to achieve a superior race and society, the Nazis did so by terminating what they viewed as the weak and inferior species — Jews.
As Patterson spoke, protesters gathered outside the lecture to voice their disagreement with his views. The protesters’ main objection was that they disagreed that Patterson condemned the slaughter and consumption of meat and other animal products. “We’re just a bunch of kids who don’t want to be called Nazis for eating meat,” said Paul Ibrahim ’06.
Patterson shrugged off objections to his cause saying that anything involving animal defense and the Holocaust would be controversial. Instead, Patterson promoted the advancement of animal rights and a decrease in the slaughtering of animals. In addition, Patterson is an advocate of organic farming and the adoption of a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Regarding the current treatment of animals, Patterson quoted the view held by scholar Theodore Adorno, saying, “Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.”
Archived article by Carl Menzel