Animals in legal history

OWithout loyal animal companions, many people would be even more lonely at the moment than already. An idea of ​​the German Leather Museum Offenbach shortly before Christmas can therefore also be seen as a tribute to the animal companions: 24 of the 28 windows on both upper floors of the museum are displayed day in and day out as an oversized Advent calendar facing the street with moving animal motifs from the current exhibition “animal beautiful?”. Otherwise, however, horror images currently predominate: Thousands of minks were culled in Denmark because of Corona and stretched their paws one last time against the cage ceiling. The pictures of a large meat factory in Westphalia, which was equally fatal for the people and animals penned in it, are still fresh.

Nevertheless, one thing becomes abundantly clear with the help of the images of the architectural Advent calendar at the Leather Museum: Without the “use” of animals, especially the warm clothes made from them, humanity would not have survived a single ice age. And without cats and dogs as a substitute for human beings, things would be far worse at the moment for many contemporaries. That this close relationship with pets and the increasing concern for animal welfare are by no means old and guaranteed items, that feral dogs in the cities were beaten to death by specially appointed dog catchers – in Bern alone 405 in 1552 – and as a particularly shameful final tribute to Delinquents were hanged together with them, shows the changeability of the relationship with our animal relatives.


“Gone by the rags”: Such “hunting rags” were attached to ropes for cornering wolves and big game, which is where the saying comes from in the case of failure and an escaped animal. The picture shows the painted linen hunting rag of Johann Reinhard von Hanau-Lichtenberg, around 1700.
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Image: Rothenburg Medieval Crime Museum

An exhibition entitled “Dog and cat, wolf and sparrow – animals in legal history” in the busy Medieval Crime Museum in Rothenburg ob der Tauber is dedicated to the tense relationship between humans and animals over the past 1500 years. Although the lockdown show cannot be visited at the moment, the excellent catalog offers a fully valid substitute for comprehensive information on the not-so-simple matter, with just under twenty euros for 372 pages an inexpensive Christmas present for critical spirits. So that at low tide a dog stared at the chamberlain on the floor next to the money chest in the communal sack and the city had come to the same thing, that cats were persecuted and killed by witches for centuries, but also by every miller in at least one copy as a mouse eater against famine it had to be kept obligatory that under Charlemagne since 813 two per hundred in the empire Luparii When professional wolf killers were supposed to prevent massacres like that in the harsh winter of 1814/15 with 28 children killed near Posen and that swarms of sparrows in the Middle Ages – the core competence time of the Rothenburg Crime Museum – were counted among the biblical plagues, the book presents all of this in exciting articles.

Even if the Middle Ages were not squeamish about supposedly harmful animals, there was no mass husbandry (meat was almost never on the table outside of the few rich households, poaching was often punishable by death) and no unnecessary torture, precisely because of change The legal opinion: If animals were legally treated as things in ancient Roman law, which has been preserved under civil law with the illogical restriction in the Animal Welfare Act that they cannot suffer suffering “without a reasonable cause” (FAZ of July 20), it was in Germanic law of the Lex Salica different. This law, written by King Clovis for the Salfranken and probably entered into force in 510 AD, limited the power of disposal over animals and took them as fellow creatures much more seriously than Roman law. In general, in the medieval centuries, when at least three-quarters of the country were still covered by the thickest forest – an almost inaccessible refuge for the living beings in it – the powers and precisely observed abilities of animals were much more valued, even admired.

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