For all we know today, Adorno never said this. No source can be found for this quote (1, 2, 3), and it was popularized (most recently) by everybody’s favourite, PETA, in their 2003 ‘The Holocaust on Your Plate’ campaign (1).
Do you want to know where Auschwitz begins? Auschwitz begins where people forget what happened there. And if we think it’s okay to compare animal slaughter to the Holocaust, we quite clearly have forgotten what happened there. Auschwitz begins where we use it for shits and giggles, because it’s oh so shocking, no matter how inappropriate the analogy may be.
If we do not remember what we must remember, “so that Auschwitz will not repeat itself” (4), if it starts to fade from our memories until Auschwitz never happened, then all hope is lost.
1) “Auschwitz liegt nicht am Strand von Malibu und auch nicht auf unseren Tellern - Kritische Anmerkungen zum ‘KZ-Vergleich’” (Susann Witt-Stahl)
2) Critical Animal: “Does this Anthony Burgess quotation exist?”
3) H-Net Discussion Networks: “Adorno did not say it”
4) Adorno 1995, p. 365
Does it matter, whether or not he said it? Why is it not a comparable comparison? Why are animals, who are systematically and thoughtlessly gassed and slaughtered in other inhumane ways, less deserving of sympathy than those gassed and slaughtered during Hitler’s reign? Is it because you think animals are less intelligent? Does that mean, then, that the slaughter of handicapped individuals during the Holocaust was more okay than that of Jews?
Your answer can’t be ‘just because they’re human’, because that tells me nothing about what differentiates a human’s experience in the Holocaust to a cow’s experience an a holocaust, other than intelligence level.