J.M. Coetzee: Another Form of Disgrace
, the South African born winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature
, and multiple prize winning author of books such as Disgrace
, Waiting for the Barbarians
, and the wonderful Elizabeth Costello
, has spoken out about factory farming.
Coetzee, a vegetarian, now lives in Australia and attended an art exhibition in Sydney called "Voiceless: I feel therefore I am"
. In reports in The Citizen
("Animal Slaughter Like the Holocaust") and The Age
("Animals Can't Speak for Themselves: It's Up to Us to Do It"), Coetzee spoke of the many "ways in which our relations to animals are wrong." The food industry, he claimed, "dwarfs all others in the number of individual animal lives it affects." He pointed to the "processing of human beings" by the Nazi government as "one warning on the grandest scale that there is something deeply, cosmically wrong with regarding and treating fellow beings as mere units of any kind."
Further, Coetzee asserted that included in the outcry against these World War II atrocities should have been: "What a terrible crime, come to think of it—a crime against nature—to treat any living being like a unit in an industrial process!" He continued: "It would be a mistake to idealise traditional animal husbandry as the standard by which the animal-products industry falls short: traditional animal husbandry is brutal enough, just on a smaller scale. A better standard by which to judge both practices would be the simple standard of humanity: is this truly the best that human beings are capable of?"
Coetzee advised: "The task of the movement is to offer ['decent'] people imaginative but practical options for what to do next after they have been revolted by a glimpse of the lives factory animals live and the deaths they die. People need to see that there are alternatives to supporting the animal-products industry, that these alternatives need not involve any sacrifice in health or nutrition, that there is no reason why these alternatives need be costly, and furthermore that what are commonly called sacrifices are not sacrifices at all—that the only sacrifices in the whole picture, in fact, are being made by non-human animals." In closing, he contended: "[T]he animal-rights campaign remains a human project from beginning to end."
I am indebted to Farmed Animal Watch
: n.7, v.7 for this piece. Readers interested in this subject, might want to attend the Indamissible Comparisons
conference at NYU, co-sponsored by Lantern Books, later this month.