All the Lizards Stand and Say “Yes Yes Yes” : The Element of Play in Legal Actions against Animals and Inanimate Objects


Legal actions against non-humans (whether animals or objects) were once widespread. They were viewed seriously and undoubtedly served important social functions. This article considers the possibility that some of these actions may have been playful as well. Certain aspects of legal actions against animals and objects-- occasional moments of levity, a preoccupation with formal rules, and a strong emphasis on imaginative transformation-- suggest that these actions had elements of play. The possibility is worth considering for two reasons. First, it may shed some light on a practice that has perplexed and disturbed commentators for centuries. Second, an examination of play in the trials of animals and objects may serve as a starting point for examining our own attitudes towards our legal system.


Animal Law | Comparative and Foreign Law | Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law | Law | Law and Society | Legal History

Date of this Version

October 2003