A campaign by the radical animal rights group Peta which compares the suffering of intensively reared animals with the plight of Jews in Nazi death camps is to be staged on London next week in defiance of a local authority ban.
An exhibition, entitled Holocaust on Your Plate, placing large photographs of concentration camps side by side with those of factory farms and slaughterhouses, will open in London on Tuesday. It will later tour the country.
By setting up the display in Trafalgar Square, Peta will defy a decision by Westminster City Council and the Greater London Authority to ban the staging of the exhibition in a public place because of its "graphic nature". But local authorities in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Dublin, have not objected to the exhibition, which has attracted controversy in Europe and the United States where it has been on tour since February.
Andrew Butler of Peta, which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said staff setting up the eight panels of the display were prepared to be arrested. He said: "We are doing this because we want as many people as possible to see the display and so we are going to be doing it in one of the most populous areas of London. If we don't get closed, we expect to be there for several hours.''
The exhibition, Peta says, is designed to illustrate the point made by the Yiddish writer and Nobel laureate, Isaac Bashevis Singer, a vegetarian, who wrote: "In relation to [animals] all people are Nazis", and to act as a reminder of the dangers of ignoring victims of oppression.
Peta say: "Just as millions of Europeans ignored the concentration camps, allowing them to continue to operate for seven years because they were not being victimised, millions of people today turn away from the horrors of factory farming." Like the victims of the Holocaust, it adds, animals are "forced to endure a frightening journey on tightly packed transport vehicles ... and are herded to their deaths".
The exhibition, which has been on the road since last year, is funded by an anonymous American Jewish philanthropist and has divided the Jewish community. The Holocaust Memorial Museum has objected to the photographs and some Jewish groups have denounced the show.
But members of Bashevis Singer's family have backed the campaign, as have Jewish vegetarian groups and Holocaust survivors, some of whose supporting letters are on the Peta website.
The exhibition's organiser, Matt Prescott, lost members of his family in the Holocaust. In an open letter to the Jewish community, he acknowledges that some will consider it inappropriate to compare the suffering of animals with that of humans, but says that he believes the exhibition does not trivialise the suffering of the Jewish people in the Holocaust. He said that it was important to remember that factory farms offend one of the anchors of Jewish tradition, that of compassion towards animals.
Peta, founded in America by the British-born activist Ingrid Newkirk in the 1980s, has made a speciality of aggressive campaigning and publicity stunts. Its members have disrupted fashion shows to protest at models wearing fur and it persuaded models to appear without clothes for a poster campaign under the caption saying that they would "rather go naked than wear fur".
A more recent spoof on the American dairy industry's "Got Milk" advertisements has a picture of Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, sporting a milk moustache, with the caption "Got Prostrate Cancer?
Another stunt was to deposit a dead raccoon on the lunch plate of Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, in protest at her magazine carrying advertisements for fur.
Ms Newkirk has decreed in her will that after her death, a portion of her body should be barbecued as a protest against what she terms "flesh foods" and her feet turned into an ornament, like the umbrella stand, to remind the world of the "depravity" of using animals in a such a fashion.
She also wants part of her skin be turned into a leather product such as a purse to prove the point that human and animal skin are the same thing.