The Nazis Were Vegans, Too

There is a grating disparity between the Israeli trend for veganism and the public's indifference to the suffering of the weak elements in society.

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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Patrons dine at the vegan-friendly restaurant Buddha Burger, Tel Aviv, Sept. 22, 2013.
Patrons dine at the vegan-friendly restaurant Buddha Burger, Tel Aviv, Sept. 22, 2013.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

I’m not the first to raise an eyebrow at the grating disparity between the Israeli trend for veganism and the public's indifference to the suffering of the weak elements in society, whether they are Palestinians living under occupation and apartheid, the poor, the homeless or refugees.

The struggle of Israel’s vegans seems to attribute more importance to animal rights than to human rights. Who wants to eat in a vegan restaurant surrounded on all sides by poverty, refugees and people living on the streets, in a country that conducts a policy of apartheid against millions of its subjects?

Gal Uchovsky recently discussed this moral corruption when he criticized the vegan campaign of celebrity-model Rotem Sela. So did Raz Yehuda, in his Haaretz Hebrew op-ed (“I’m the son of Satan,” May 28), in which he described a Tel Aviv waitress giving water to a dog on a hot day, while totally ignoring the thirst of a homeless man sprawled alongside the dog.

For a long time now, I’ve been wondering when the first vegan outpost will be built in the hills of Samaria. And in that context, it’s interesting to dwell on a fascinating and somewhat downplayed historical fact: The Nazi regime was vegan in spirit.

With their rise to power in 1933, the Nazis began to legislate dozens of laws to protect animals. They demonstrated particular concern about the suffering of lobsters in restaurants. Indeed, senior officials had long discussions on the issue.

Hermann Göring threatened to “commit to concentration camps those who still think they can continue to treat animals as inanimate property.” Those abusing pets received two-year prison sentences.

The Nazis prohibited the production of foie gras (fattened goose liver) and imposed strong sanctions on invasive animal research and hunting. Hitler claimed that hunting and horse races were “the last vestiges of a dead feudal world.”

And Heinrich Himmler preached vigorously against hunting: “Every animal has the right to live … this is really murder,” he complained to his personal physician.

The Nazi government built nature reserves and designed a curriculum advocating a humane attitude toward animals. In 1934, moreover, it hosted one of the first international conferences for the protection of animals. A huge sign above the podium declared: “Entire epochs of love will be needed to repay animals for their value and service.”

The Nazis attributed moral qualities to animals. Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diaries: “Man must not feel superior to animals. Man thinks that only he has intelligence, a soul and the ability to speak. Don’t animals have those qualities?”

Richard Wagner and Hitler believed that eating meat symbolized the atrophy of civilization. In the Nazi vision for the future, the killing of animals for sport or food was prohibited. Vegetarianism symbolized a new and pure society. Hitler called a meat broth “corpse tea.” He and many senior Nazi officials were vegetarians.

By 1942, Jews were forbidden to have pets. Dogs and cats owned by Jews were collected and sent for euthanasia. Without suffering. Their owners were sent to Auschwitz and Treblinka.

In a strange and horrifying manner, those infected by veganism in Israel place animals above human beings.

Of course, they are not Judeo- and/or neo-Nazis (those are the “price tag” people, aren’t they?). But they bear collective responsibility for Israeli society’s terrible injustices toward human beings.

And in the context of the perpetual Israeli dance of accusing ideological rivals of Nazism, they compare the meat industry to the Nazi extermination enterprise. In their moral superiority, they are allowed to compare dairy farmers to Nazis, and fur wearers to rapists. There is a website where they will find other purist types who really love animals:

Animal rights activist and cofounder of PETA Ingrid Newkirk lies on a mock barbecue stand as a sign of protest in Mumbai, India, November 6, 2013.Credit: AP
Battery cages on a moshav. Animal rights groups want to do away with them altogether.

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