J.M. Coetzee

A Quote by J.M. Coetzee on animals, holocaust, sympathy, and animal rights

The question to ask should not be: Do we have something in commong - reason, self-consciousness, a soul - with other animals? (With the corollary that, if we do not, then we are entitled to treat them as we like, imprisoning them, killing them, dishonoring there corpses).  I return to the death camps, the horror that convinces us that what went on there was a crime against humanity, is not that despite a humanity shared with their victims, the killers treated them like lice.  That is too abstract.  The horror is that the killers refused to see themselves in the place of their victims, as did everyone else.  They said 'It is they in those cattle-cars rattling past.' They did not say, 'How would it be if it were I in that cattle-car?' They did not say, 'It is I who am in that cattle-car,' They said, "It must be the dead who are being burnt today, making the air stink and falling ash on my cabbages.' They did not say, 'How would it be if I were burning?' They did not say, 'I am burning, I am falling in ash.'  In other words, they closed their hearts.

J.M. Coetzee

Source: The Lives of Animals (The University Center for Human Values Series), Pages: 34

Contributed by: Ryan

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