Brethren of Purity
The Case of the Animals against Man


‘The case of the animals against man’ is not just one of the many books on animal welfare. In the West animal welfare came to the fore only in the nineteenth century and since then interest in the subject has kept increasing.

The fable was written in the tenth century (Christian era) by the Brethren of Purity, a group of liberal Islamic philosophers. So it may well contain concepts that you are not familiar with and which are worth investigating. I would recommend you do not skip them hastily in order to continue the story, it is certainly worth the effort and will contribute to your understanding of the discussion between animals and humans.

The story begins with the colonization by humans of an island  where, until men set foot ashore there, the animals lived their own lives without human intervenience. With the arrival of men life takes an unfortunate turn for the animals and they decide to ask the King of the Jinns to judge whether the dominance of humans over the animals is justifiable.

Representatives of the different species of the animals (e.g. ungulates, birds of prey, insects) express their complaints to the King and present arguments that demonstrate the injustice of the cruel way humans treat the animals as a matter of course. Here the authors show a remarkable knowledge of the life sciences and, what is even more important,  empathy towards the animals by the way they give them a voice.

The arguments of the humans that are presented by representatives of various peoples and religions, quite obviously prove to be insufficient, but although the humans often feel a sense of discomfort, they will not give up.

One of the Djinns always puts his finger on the sore spot by adding what people have ‘forgotten’ to tell, whereas the animals speak with gratitude about the gifts they received from the Creator and they do not need correction.

I will not tell what the decision of the King of the Jinns is. However, do bear in mind that we have to do with a fable and that the answer should be regarded as an allegory.

The book left me with thougts on relationships in general where a lack of balance between giving and taking always proves to be harmful for both sides on the long run. It is sad to see how little progress we made in changing the relationship between humans and animals for the better, considering the fable was written over eleven centuries ago. We have had enough time to put an end to these degrading conditions.

S. K.