> AR Interviews
A Conversation with Dr Helmut
On the modern-day holocaust of the animals
by Claudette Vaughan.
published in Vegan Voice. Translated by Karen Trevayne
VINTAGE KAPLAN: "If you don't believe [the second Auschwitz lie]
exists, then you should read reports of the experiments that Nazis carried
out in their research labs on Jews, and then read reports on the
experiments done today with animals."
Helmut Kaplan, PhD, is one of the leading thinkers in the
German-speaking world. He was born in 1952 and resides in Salzburg,
Austria. Kaplan says that when he was growing up, the sight of dead
animals, such as halves of pigs being transported and fish displayed in
stores, shocked and disgusted him. He became a vegetarian in 1963, at the
age of 11.
Helmut Kaplan has made the definitive statement: "Our grandchildren
will ask us one day, 'Where were you during the holocaust of the animals?
What did you do against these horrific crimes?' This time around we won't
be able to say, 'We didn't know it was going on.' "
Q. You have mentioned many times in your speeches and writings the
analogy existing between the Jewish Holocaust and the modern-day animal
holocaust. In the US a poll was conducted, with over 97 per cent of people
hating that analogy. Does this mean our species still lives in a
speciesist world that refuses to accept animal rights?
A. I fear that this is exactly what it shows. However, the
deciding factor in the comparison between the Holocaust of the Jews and
the Holocaust of the Animals is this:
1. Supreme among the supporters
of this comparison are the Jews themselves.
2. This comparison is
factually, historically and ethically correct. This was shown by Charles
Patterson in his epochal work Eternal Treblinka is by far the best and
most impressive that I have ever seen concerning animal rights.
Q. What about the second Auschwitz lie?
A. The absurd contention that concentration camps never actually
existed was, as everybody knows, described as the "Auschwitz lie". What
many people don't know, or don't want to know, is that there are still
concentration camps today, i.e., animal concentration camps. The assertion
that concentration camps were closed down after the Second World War is
the "second Auschwitz lie".
The Nazis had in place many laws that modern-day animal rights people
would be envious of. They passed a detailed law that clearly stated that
animals were not to be protected for the sake of human beings but "for
their own sakes". The Nazis were obsessed with conducting "good" science.
Surely this is a strong case for fighting vivisection from a moral
platform? The scientific-methodology critique on animal experiments
suffers from the same weakness as the biological critique on
vegetarianism, that humans because of the structure of their teeth and
their intestine are not naturally vegetarians. Neither argument goes
deeply enough and misses the point.
The important factual-scientific question in relation to animal
experiments runs: Do animal experiments benefit human health? The crucial
point is not to clarify this question of benefit at all, but rather to
show that it is irrelevant. Animal experiments are wrong, irrespective of
whether they are medically beneficial. The real or supposed benefit of
animal experiments is not an ethical argument at all, because there are
many things that could be beneficial but which are, however, immoral or
forbidden, such as experiments on humans.
Q. Can you comment on the astounding paradox that modern-day
scientists have given the world the tools of eugenics far beyond Hitler's
A. The problem is not the technical possibilities, rather the
legal regulations and the ethical points of view. One example: if we
turned back the clock one hundred years to what was technically possible
then, therefore putting ourselves in the situation of one hundred years
ago, animals in abattoirs would not be stunned with captive bolt stunners,
but with a hammer. On the other hand, although we now have the know-how to
really stun animals effectively, we don't do so. The problem in both cases
is one of ethics, not technology.
Q. Scientists have the power of manipulating the genome. Can we
really be so gullible as to trust those who say it will be used only to
avert hereditary illness when people are already lining up to "create"
their perfect children?
A. Of course it is madness and a crime to deliberately put dumb
children into the world. But there is also another side to this story: if
our modern methods can be used to prevent dumb people from coming into the
world, it is a great thing! As a general rule we should use every
opportunity to reduce suffering.
Q. The animal rights movement pushes for stem cell research because
it offers an alternative to escalating vivisection practices. If we
believe that $$$ dictate the terms then it's difficult to seriously think
that stem cell research will lessen vivisection in any form at all. They
will continue to run parallel to each other. What do you think?
A. I agree. What we need is a total legal ban on animal
experiments. Admittedly, the chances of achieving this goal increase the
more alternatives there are to animal experiments.
Q. Germany's great strides in granting rights to non-human animals
appear to have emerged out of left field. Is this true?
In the beginning the movement of '68 played an important role in the
animal rights movement. Admittedly, there is not much trace of that left
today. On the one hand the ideological image of the Greens has changed
since then, and on the other, there are now groups in all political and
social camps that take animals to their hearts.
Q. How much influence, if any, did the German Green Party play in
animal rights' subsequent successes?
A. The role of the Greens must not be overestimated. Some of the
Greens had very far-reaching goals regarding the ethical treatment of
animals, but these were sacrificed long ago for political pragmatism. On
the other hand, animal rights activists are, for the most part, associated
with the Greens or vote for them. Let me just add here a personal
observation: under the Greens there is also an especially repugnant form
of speciesism, namely a perverse combination of "back to nature" and
anthropocentrism. These people are against factory farming, yet they
support "organic" meat and by doing that ostentatiously confess to
something which "normal" meat consumers would prefer not to think about,
namely, the exploitation and killing of animals.
Q. What about the EU?
A. Up till now the EU has shown itself to be a brake on the
enforcement of national regulations in favour of animals. This absolutely
Q. Germany has passed a law banning the use of battery eggs in egg
production and this will come into effect by 2007. How did this come
A. This is the result of tireless efforts by German animal
protection and animal rights organisations. The referendum in Switzerland
that led to the abolition of battery hens there certainly served as an
important role model.
Q. The European Parliament has banned the use of non-human animals
for testing cosmetics after a 13-year battle between activists and French
perfume producers. This law inhibits the use of mice, rabbits and primates
for most tests within six years and all tests within 10 years. The catch
is that toxins can still be used on animals until an "alternative" is
found. The ban on marketing all cosmetics that rely on animal testing will
also make it impossible for firms to have offshore laboratories. It is not
clear to me whether this law will satisfy draconian WTO rules, which try
to ensure that trading blocks do not use moral or safety arguments as a
veil for protectionism. Please comment.
A. These are basically merely proposals for the future, which
will be dependent upon finding adequate alternative methods before they
will be put into practice. What will actually be regulated in six or 10
years time is still completely open. It is quite possible that everything
will be postponed yet again. So there is no cause for jubilation just
Q. We in the English-speaking world are deprived of your books
because they are printed only in German. Please tell us about your latest
A. Yes, I would be glad to find a publisher who would translate
this and my other books into English. My latest book is called Die
Ethische Weltformel (The Ethical Great Unifying Theory) and concerns the
The first phase of animal ethics -- before the animal rights movement
came about -- involved the erroneous belief that there was a quasi-ethical
exoticism about animals, which absolutely could not be addressed using our
traditional moral arguments. The second phase insisted on the idea that
one could rationally discuss correct behaviour toward animals in exactly
the same way as we do for correct behaviour toward people.
The third stage of animal ethics, which should be realised now,
consists of recognising that complicated ethical reflections about our
relations with animals, along the lines of Singer's utilitarianism or
Regan's concept of rights, are as superfluous as the complicated ethical
reflections about our relations with other human beings.
There is only one simple ethic, which tells us how we should treat
animals and people.
Helmut F. Kaplan is adviser and spokesperson on ethical affairs for
Arche 2000 -- World-Animal Aid.