Turin; and Professor Cornevin, of the veterinary school of Lyons, has furnished me several valuable facts.
By way of an historical introduction to our study, we will cast a glance at the relations which the human laws of different societies have established between men and animals. The primitive peoples, fetichistic in their feelings and habits, and not yet capable of metaphysical subtilties, instinctively put animals and men upon a footing of perfect equality as respected the penalties to be attached to their crimes. It was so with all people during the middle ages, and even in fact down to the last century. Then, by one of the sudden contradictions which frequently appear in the history of mankind, a distinction between the actions of men and of animals was clearly defined. The powerful influence of Descartes, the encyclopedists, and the scientific men of the last century, who were more frequently demolishers than constructors, affords the explanation of the change, which, it is proper to say, was due rather to bad than to generous sentiments. Gradually, under the domination of the metaphysical spirit, the conviction arose that animals were brutes, that it was difficult to appreciate their moral state, and that this moral state was after all separated, if it had any existence, by an immense distance from that of man. So the law protecting animals was quite forgotten in the framing of our codes.
Only a few scientific men or observers made approaches to the admission of evolution and transformation. These ideas have become common now, and nearly every one has adopted them theoretically, but few admit them in practice, and it will not be surprising to us if the title of our essay raises a smile on the face of many of its readers.
We will begin by showing how the human societies that have preceded ours have manifested their feelings with regard to certain acts of animals. Among fetich-worshiping peoples, the animal is considered as a man, and a member of the human family to the same extent as a slave. Its loss is an occasion for mourning, and its trespasses—toward man—deserve punishment.
In ancient Egypt, when a cat died in the house, the inhabitants shaved their eyebrows; if a dog died, they shaved their whole body. In Athens, one of the laws of Triptolemus declared that no one had a right to inflict a wrong upon a living creature. The Greeks were aware of the tender and affectionate care which the young of the stork exhibited for their old parents, and recorded that, when the latter lost their feathers from age, the young stripped themselves of their down for them and fed them with the food they collected. This was the origin of the Greek law called "the law of the stork," by virtue of which children were obligated to take care of their aged parents, and those who refused to do so were declared infamous. How different is it in our modern societies! Pierquin remarks with reason that, as man rises, he treats animals as if they were correspondingly degraded.