By Eyal Megged
January 3, 2014
The Righteous Among the Nations, those saintly non-Jews who are presented as role models for every Jewish child around here, were fanatical people who performed fanatical acts. The decision to save persons and families right under the Nazis’ noses in occupied Europe was not just an extreme fanatical act but an almost certain act of actual suicide. I use this metaphor — which is bound to arouse immediate outrage in many of the readers, when they find out that this article is not about Jews but about animals; not about innocent children but about innocent calves – in order to demonstrate that sometimes, in an unbearable reality, certain people go off the rails and do things which most of us regard as extreme and illogical.
In my opinion this is what happened to Gary Yourofsky. This is probably what I would have done as well, if I had his courage and his strength, which enable him to be exposed on a daily basis to the horrors which he wishes to end. This is what happened to the Righteous Among the Nations when they felt they could no longer stick their heads in the sand in view of what was being done to their Jewish neighbors.
I purposely avoid using the trite “you can’t compare the two atrocities argument” since I do not believe in this reservation. I am entitled to the shaking emotional identification that befalls me (e.g. last Saturday in a Kibbutz cow shed) when I saw baby calves which were soon to be mutilated and beheaded, even if they are “only” animals. I shudder at the thought that these unforgivable acts are done, among other reasons, so that the food critic of the paper I write for will in due course muster his poetic inspiration to describe the roast prepared by a supreme chef from one of those sweet lovely calves.
Like Bashevis Singer, I too am bound by the duty to compare the Zoglowek [animal slaughterhouse] to Treblinka. I guess Bashevis Singer, Yourofsky and I have the same emotional range, and I don’t see any fault in this. On the contrary: I’d even say that by comparing it to the animal’s holocaust I can better and more deeply understand “our” holocaust, from different aspects, which this is neither the place nor the time to elaborate.
On this occasion I would like to use this fanatical column of mine to persuade the members of the interministerial committee — appointed by the Prime Minister to examine the issue of transferring the Animal Protection Laws’ enforcement from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Environmental Protection – to not miss this opportunity that has befallen them. There can be no exaggeration in the change they can make happen. The Ministry of Agriculture, which naturally represents the meat and dairy industries, has so far made a laughingstock of farm animals’ rights. The Minister of Agriculture should be in charge of the cows’ well-being just as Shari Arison should be in charge of the Bank of Israel.
Such a change, if it does happen, is by no means an extreme act. It shouldn’t have anything to do with any vegetarian or vegan tendency, God forbid. The committee members will be permitted, while debating the issue, to feast on chicken thighs, schnitzel or shawarma. All that is required of them is to rectify a legal and governmental wrong, to put an end to an atrocious injustice. Their right and just decision, which will undoubtedly require standing up to mighty economic forces, will be a small step for humanity but a great step for the animals.
Stop The Animal Holocaust
By Eyal Megged
September 7 2012
The charismatic animal rights preacher, Gary Yourovsky, arrived in Israel two days ago to win over devotees to the cause. As part of his lecture tour, he was due to visit the Experimental High School in Jerusalem where my son studies. A time had already been fixed for his lecture, but meanwhile the students were informed that the Education Ministry had sent out a circular forbidding the holding of the lecture since “the material that is conveyed is not suitable.”
This is a dry turn of phrase that suits to a tee the inspirational circulars disseminated by the ministry. At my request, my son was able to squeeze out a few more words from the document received at his school, and the most salient argument there was that the lecturer is “a vegan who has an extreme influence on his listeners.”
That’s strange, I thought. According to that logic, it is possible to say about anyone who describes horrors he has endured that “he has an extreme influence on his listeners.” Yourovsky indeed describes in horrifying detail what he has seen in slaughterhouses, in chicken coops, in sheep pens and in cattle farms; but after all (with all the obvious, countless differences ), Holocaust survivors who go to the schools every year on Holocaust Remembrance Day also include “extreme contents” in their lectures that are likely to shock the innocent souls of their young listeners.
But perhaps the difference lies in the horrors of the past and the horrors of the present. Between the Holocaust that happened in the past and the holocaust that is taking place now. Perhaps it is easier to digest a memory than to digest a reality that it is still possible to change. I have no doubt that I lost a lot of outraged readers already in the previous paragraph: How is it possible to compare the Holocaust of the Jews at all, The Holocaust with a capital T, to what is happening in the valley of death of the helpless animals at our mercy?
However, from the point of view of an extreme vegetarian like me, the prohibition imposed on Yourovsky about describing, at my son’s school and other schools to which he was invited, the horrors that we perpetrate on the helpless animals is no less grave than a situation in which Holocaust survivors would be prevented from describing what they underwent in the death camps.
From my point of view, the ongoing holocaust of animals is as terrible and horrific as the Holocaust of people. Both were perpetrated on living creatures. The one group suffered and the other group continues to suffer. Then the world declined to intervene and now the world declines to intervene.
In my eyes, there is no difference between one kind of suffering and another. The only difference is that the holocaust of the animals can be stopped. The anger that motivates Yourovsky to sabotage torture farms and monstrous laboratories stems from that same holy feeling that motivated justice and freedom fighters throughout the generations to intervene on behalf of the wretched and miserable of the human race.
I still can’t comprehend how an enlightened person is capable of ignoring the scandalous gap that exists between the amount of suffering caused to animals when they are being murdered, and the amount of pleasure such an enlightened person gets from eating their flesh. I have not understood, and I still do not understand, how a conscientious person can be completely shut off from the subject on the agenda. How cultured people ignore the daily bloodshed in the slaughterhouses, the legal extermination of helpless animals that is carried out because of the human lust for meat.
It is possible to think that at at any rate, high school students are not exposed to extreme content at any juncture. In a short while, though, they will not merely be exposed to extreme “content,” but to an extreme reality. How absurd and stupid it is to decide to prevent these youth, who in another year will be joining the army, from listening to a person who is trying to put an end to violence and torture, only because he wants to try to persuade them to stop eating steak.