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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Interview With PETA Communications Director

Aired February 28, 2003 - 09:25   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, has a new ad campaign out. It is called "Holocaust on your Plate." It is prompting, to say the least, outrage in some quarters. We have gotten close to 1,000 e-mails this morning on this program, and my guess is 90 percent of the people writing in are furious.
The campaign compares the deaths of animals to the deaths of people during World War II in the Nazi death camps, and we have with us now on the telephone Lisa Lange, who is the vice president of communications for PETA.

Lisa, welcome to the broadcast. Thanks for calling in.

LISA LANGE, VICE PRESIDENT OF COMMUNICATIONS, PETA: Oh, thank you very much.

CAFFERTY: Let me read you something from a guy named Peter in Birmingham, Alabama. "Somewhere among those mountains of human remains you'll find my aunts, uncles, cousins, and at least one of my great-grandfathers. They were not raised to be slaughtered, and to see them compared to food goes far beyond anything I can express in polite language."

Surely you anticipated you were going to get this kind of reaction. What prompted you to do this kind of a campaign?

LANGE: Well, what prompted us to do it was a quote from the Jewish Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer, who said, "To animals, all people are Nazis. For them, it is an eternal Treblinka."

Holocaust survivors, such as Isaac Bashevis Singer, and those who lost their entire families like him were the first to make the comparisons. Actually, it was Heinrich Himmler, the very infamous head of the SS during that time who actually modeled concentration camps after slaughterhouses.

And our point here is the only thing we seem to learn from history is that we never learn from history, and that although the victims change, the behavior stays the same.

CAFFERTY: I have a problem, though. How is it you can compare the slaughter of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis...

LANGE: Right.

CAFFERTY: ... Jews and others, to the commercial production of food at slaughterhouses in this country? I mean...

LANGE: Yes. Yes.

CAFFERTY: ... the sensitivities that you're pricking with this campaign, and the emotions that you're uncovering in people...

LANGE: Yes.

CAFFERTY: Surely, you have to agree that this kind of a thing is offensive to some.

LANGE: It's shocking. It is startling. I will tell you, Jack, that the first time I looked at the display, which people can see online at masskilling.com, it is very hard to look at. It should be hard to look at. What we're doing is we're attacking the mindset. The minds that allowed the Holocaust to take the lives of 12 million people and also the mindset -- 12 million people were tortured and killed in the 1940s, and many more looked on and let it happen.

Today, 28 billion animals in the United States alone are treated -- they're shoved in warehouses, tens of thousands of birds, for example, in warehouses where they suffocate to death...

CAFFERTY: Aren't they two separate issues? I have to keep coming back to that.

LANGE: Right.

CAFFERTY: We're not talking about people here. We're talking about chickens and pigs and food, and yes, there is probably a lot of room for improvement. What do you say to the people who have written to me this morning saying, I used to think they are all right, but they're nuts, they're over the top. I am not going to have anything more to do with them.

LANGE: I urge people to please go to the Web site at masskilling.com and challenge themselves to understand the point that we're trying to make. Understand why Holocaust survivors and families of people who were lost in the Holocaust made the comparisons initially, and first and urged us.

There is a book written called "Eternal Treblinka" based on the Bashevis Singer's quote, and what other people have said who lived through the Holocaust as well. Challenge yourself to understand that what we're attacking is prejudice, exploitation, cruelty, and apathy, and go vegetarian today because that is the only way to stop today's current mass destruction.

CAFFERTY: All right. I got to go.

LANGE: All right. Thanks, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thank you. Nice to have you on the program. Lisa Lange, vice president of communications for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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