Superiority, who is the other and why?
An Animal Rights Article from

FROM Zahava Katz-Perlish, I'm An Animal Too
September 2020

I'm an animal

Even though I thought about and contemplated social justice issues for years, I did not connect all the dots. I didn’t fully consider the nonhuman animals. Indeed, I stopped consuming chickens and meat at a relatively young age because I thought I loved animals and how can you eat the flesh of creatures you love? But, I didn’t think about the big picture of animal status in our society.

Dedicated to my beloved father, Israel Katz, 1924-2002

Superiority. Exploitation. Injustice. Violence. Those loaded words are front and center in our lives. I care deeply about those issues. It was my family’s history that initially ignited my thinking and shaped my views about them. It eventually led me to my passion and activism for the ultimate victims, the nonhuman animals.

Picture courtesy of Sue Coe: Auschwitz Begins… Copyright © 2009 Sue Coe, Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York

Early in life I learned that my father, the man I loved and admired for his intellect, moral values, strong ethics, and uniqueness, was viewed by an entire society as inferior and subhuman. As such, not even 20 years old, he was subjected to torture, imprisonment, and harsh enslavement in forced labor camps. His entire family was murdered. The personal trauma of knowing all that deeply affected me and informed my worldview. From a young age I realized the extent of cruelty ordinary people are capable of when they conveniently deem others “inferior”.

Later on I realized that a sense of superiority isn’t only a mere outlet for humans’ cruelty, it’s also very opportunistic. The Nazi propaganda used falsehoods and stereotypes to further demonize and portray Jews, such as my father, as subhuman. That in turn served as a fertile ground to seed and bring to fruition their self serving agenda. The Nazis and their collaborators killed two-thirds of the 9 million European Jews, and millions of others whom they labeled inferior. They stole their property, and used the strong and able bodies as slave labor to build their economy, infrastructure and war machine. But as David Livingstone Smith, the director of the Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology at the University of New England said in his NPR interview, the Nazis were not madmen or monsters, they were ordinary human beings.

It’s clear to me that the treatment of African Americans in the U.S. bears similar hallmarks. Whites used fabrications and stereotypes to create and support the unfounded myth of black inferiority, so they could take advantage of blacks. It manifested initially in slavery, and during Jim Crow, and to this day, through institutionalized racism. If you are white and your ancestors lived anywhere in this country during slavery and/or Jim Crow, they most likely were racists, and like the majority of whites, enjoyed benefits on the backs of black people. Furthermore, as Edward Ball tells us in his new book, it’s estimated that one half of all white Americans have in their family tree a Klansman.

If you lived during slavery and/or Jim Crow, you probably would have followed your family and friends footsteps. Humans are shaped by social norms which inform their views about themselves in relationship to others. History has shown us that our natural desire is to be part of the human herd no matter how reprehensible the herd’s behavior is. Humans are capable of committing, supporting or turning a blind eye to injustices and heinous crimes, as long as it’s acceptable by the majority of society, and benefits them. Those dark days are not over. Just think about how you view and treat sentient nonhuman animals.

Even though I thought about and contemplated social justice issues for years, I did not connect all the dots. I didn’t fully consider the nonhuman animals. Indeed, I stopped consuming chickens and meat at a relatively young age because I thought I loved animals and how can you eat the flesh of creatures you love? But, I didn’t think about the big picture of animal status in our society.

For example, I conveniently didn’t consider the extreme cruelty of the dairy industry. I‘m ashamed to say that as a women and scientist I didn’t bother to learn that procuring milk requires that female cows be forcibly impregnated (raped) and their babies taken away from them shortly after birth, year after year. The calves are butchered for veal and the cows for ground beef at the young age of 4 or 5 years, when they can no longer give milk, nor stand. I was not alone in my ignorance.

Conveniently thinking that other species are lesser beings and therefore can be exploited and killed for selfish reasons such as taste and entertainment, is embedded in our way of life. Such prejudice, arrogant and self-serving notions are ingrained in us. Ironically, even those who claim they’re against injustice, violence, and oppression, who preach to others about racism and social justice, don’t extend their awareness and empathy towards their own victims, the nonhuman animals.

What should break our hearts is that animals are exactly like us in all the ways that really matter. They think, feel pain, joy, love, fear and any other emotions we have. They love their babies and form friendships that can last a lifetime. If you have a dog or ever met one, you already know all that. Cows, pigs and chickens are no different.

Most people overlook all that and exploit the illusion of their supremacy, and the extreme violence ensues. There is insufficient space in this post to describe the many ways in which this is manifested, but here’s one mind blowing number to illustrate it: each year we kill 74 billion land animals and an estimated 90 billion marine animals worldwide! Only one species’ consumption of animals’ flesh, dairy and eggs, contributes to this mass carnage.

I’m amazed that as a society we don’t condemn the brutality against our fellow beings, and worse, we treat it as business as usual. Most folks believe it’s their right to support the oppression, imprisonment and ending the life of innocent creatures, so they can use them for anything they desire. Consuming their flesh, milk and eggs, and wearing their skin, wool, and feathers, demand that young living beings be tortured and killed[1],[2]. Their heartbreaking plight goes unnoticed. The human capacity for self-serving denial is endless.

If indeed we are “good” and “compassionate”, why can’t we extend our empathy towards other sentient beings? If we’re capable of self reflection, why can’t we internalize the simple fact that our fellow earthlings’ lives are equally important and deserve our respect? How come we consider ourselves the most intelligent species, and yet it’s so difficult for us to understand that no animal wants to die to be our bacon, nuggets or omelet, our leather shoes, or a research subject in a laboratory?

If we’re free thinking people we should be able to break the mold when our behavior is unethical, destructive and harmful to others. The fact that your mom fed you meat many years ago (my mom did) doesn’t mean you have to continue unnecessarily feeding your children and yourself with animal flesh–knowing the extreme cruelty involved in raising, transporting, and brutally killing young animals against their will.

I urge you to view a video taken in a slaughterhouse or read the LA Times article about folks who bear witness to animal transports. If I had to guess, none of my readers would click on the links above. If you eat meat and “think” that it’s ethical and normal, please ask yourself, why wouldn’t you want to read and watch how your meat is procured?

And for those of you who can’t bring themselves to feel any empathy towards their victims (or, as I’ve heard it “I care more about humans”), please consider the simple fact that animal agriculture is killing all of us. Science informs us that the industry is (including “small”, “local” and “free range” farms) destructive to the environment, it’s the root cause for pandemics, not to mention harmful to our personal health.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

There is no doubt in my mind that the atrocities we commit against our fellow earthlings will be viewed by future generations through the same lens we view slavery. Please be on the right side of history and follow the footsteps of the minority who challenged slavery, back when it was the law of the land. Break the shackles of your upbringing and traditions and view your victims for who they are, sentient, beautiful beings who want to live on this earth as much as you do.

As I’m writing this, fires are ravaging vast parts of the U.S., a direct result of global warming, to which animal agriculture is the lead contributor. I beg you, overcome your cognitive dissonance and face the dire reality and destructive consequences of your habits. Join the millions of people who’re thriving on plant-based nutrition. There are plentiful options and great plant-based substitutes for meat, dairy and eggs, and please, contact me if you need more suggestions. It’s easy, very tasty and the right thing to do, go vegan!

“What do they know—all these scholars, all these philosophers, all the leaders of the world—about such as you? They have convinced themselves that man, the worst transgressor of all the species, is the crown of creation. All other creatures were created merely to provide him with food, pelts, to be tormented, exterminated. In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”
~ Nobel Laureate, Isaac Bashevis Singer

“Because I’m a civil rights activist, I am also an animal rights activist. Animals and humans suffer and die alike. Violence causes the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel and vicious taking of life. We shouldn’t be a part of it.”
~ Dick Gregory, civil rights activist.

[1] What’s Wrong With Dairy and Eggs?

[2] The Myth of Harmlessness: The Leather, Wool and Down Industries Are the Meat Industry

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