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A British animal rights campaigner is at the center of a bitter row for likening the treatment of farm animals to that of Jews in the Holocaust, the Mail Online reported.

"I don’t think people always appreciate what is the holocaust going on behind closed doors," said Peta Watson-Smith, one of six candidates vying to fill five vacancies on the council of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"You talk about the Jews. This probably sounds like animal rights, but if you recognize animals as sentient beings, why are we treating them so abysmally on farms?"

Eating less meat and dairy produce would benefit animals and be better for people’s health, welfare and psychology, Watson-Smith said.

Her comments were strongly condemned by both Jewish groups and countryside campaigners, who called the comparison "offensive" and accused Watson-Smith of "trivializing" the suffering of millions.

"No one who fully understands the all-encompassing evil of the Holocaust and its systematic program of genocide could ever seriously compare it to the treatment – no matter how bad – of farm animals," said Alan Aziz, director of the Zionist Federation.

"While everyone is entitled to their own views about the morality and efficiency of how we source our food, that can never be an acceptable reason to trivialize the memory of the millions of Jews and others who were deliberately exterminated by the Nazi regime."

Tim Bonner, of the pro-farm Countryside Alliance, described Watson-Smith's words as the "language of extremists, which would be offensive to anyone who isn’t obsessed with an animal rights agenda – particularly those who lived and suffered through the Holocaust."

The vote for the members of the RSPCA council could determine the charity's future, with a new chief executive due to be elected early next year. The charity has been at war with farmers and hunters during the tenure of the incumbent, Gavin Grant, and the number of prosecutions it launched has almost doubled – leading to accusations that it is overzealous and politically and financially motivated.

Watson-Smith says the money should be spent on prosecuting farmers and, if elected, she would like the RSPCA to encourage the public to "follow a wholly plant-based diet."