BOOKS: The Animals’ Lawsuit Against Humanity

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2005:

The Animals’ Lawsuit Against Humanity:
A Modern Adaptation of an Ancient Animal Rights Tale

Translated & adapted by Rabbi Anson Laytner
& Rabbi Dan Bridge. Edited by Matthew Kaufmann
Introduction by Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Illustrated by Kulsum Begum

Fons Vitae (49 Mockingbird Valley Dr., Louisville, KY 40207),
2005. 115 pages, paperback. $14.95.


Caring humans around the world have been troubled at how most
humans have treated animals for as long as written literature has
existed. The earliest writings meant to motivate other humans to
change their ways tried to make kindness toward animals a sacred
duty, as in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and to some extent
Judaism, and is often mentioned in the literature of other
religions, including many of the Hadiths of Bukhari, collecting the
sayings of Mohammed.

Unfortunately, religious proscriptions failed under economic
pressure. Animals were abused without recourse.
The Animals’ Lawsuit Against Humanity is described on the
back cover as “A Muslim Sufi work of 10th century Iraq, translated
by a rabbi into Hebrew, rendered into Latin for a Christian king.”
It emerged from a time and place where secular law was just
forming to reinforce religious teaching, in a manner that could be
applied uniformly across the many cultural divisions that might exist
within an empire.
The Animals’ Lawsuit Against Humanity makes the case,
through fable, that animals should be recognized as possessing
rights, guaranteed by social contract, which could be enforced in
secular courts.
As well as listing the many ways in which animals are abused,
the fable evaluates the different relationships that wild and
domestic animals have with humans, and seeks equitable ways to
resolve conflicts of human and animal interests.
It was almost a millennia ahead of its time, but fortunately
it has now been “translated from the popular Hebrew version by Jews
into English, edited by a Christian and illustrated exquisitely by a
Muslim woman from India under the patronage of a Saudi princess,”
just in time to help provide the cultural foundation for the rapidly
growing pro-animal movement in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Those of us from elsewhere can enjoy it too; but it will
have most value to the people who recently induced Turkey to pass one
of the most progressive animal protection laws in the world, founded
the first humane societies in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, and
sustain a humane movement in Pakistan despite virtual isolation from
the international humane community.

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