All goats equal before the law…

By Legal Eagle

A goat has is being held on suspicion of committing an armed robbery in Nigeria:

Vigilantes took the black and white beast to the police saying it was an armed robber who had used black magic to transform himself into a goat to escape arrest after trying to steal a Mazda 323.

“The group of vigilante men came to report that while they were on patrol they saw some hoodlums attempting to rob a car,” Kwara state police spokesman Tunde Mohammed told Reuters by telephone.

“They pursued them. However one of them escaped while the other turned into a goat.

“We cannot confirm the story, but the goat is in our custody. We cannot base our information on something mystical. It is something that has to be proved scientifically, that a human being turned into a goat.”

I wonder what rights the goat has. Does it have the right to legal representation? To be treated equally before the law?


Yes, I do have a fascination with the status of animals in litigation, and it’s not just a historical phenomenon or something which occurs in other countries. As I’ve posted previously, Australia has a recent example of animals being served with a trespass notice. And then there’s Chico the delinquent monkey who was put to death as a result of his crimes in the US.

Dave Bath tells of the bonobo with a “passport” and a seat on a plane, and of Haisl, an Austrian chimpanzee, who is seeking to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against a decision of the Austrian Supreme Court that he is not entitled to a guardian. The Austrian Supreme Court sidestepped the issue of Haisl’s “personhood”, saying that he was not entitled to a guardian because he was not mentally impaired nor in danger. has a post on animals in litigation as well, telling of a Macedonian bear which was found guilty of theft and criminal damage last year.

If the goat is going to be treated as if it has a human incarnation, I think it deserves representation. But this raises the question of how it is going to give instructions to its counsel! Somehow, I doubt the case will get that far, but look at all these other animals in legal proceedings, or with a legal status…it just shows that you never know.


  1. Posted January 24, 2009 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    When you laugh at them don’t forget that only a few short centuries ago Catholic theologians in the West thought goats, pigs etc should be put on trial if they contravened natural or divine law.

  2. Posted January 24, 2009 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I think there was a case in the EU (??Germany??) where the chimpanzee was the plaintiff (can’t remember what it was about), but the respondent argued that it could not be a plaintiff on the sole basis that it could not properly instruct a lawyer.

    The implication is that if you got another anthropod ape, that COULD use sign to instruct a lawyer, it could reasonably be a plaintiff.

    Also, a baby chimp was given a passport in the last couple of days (UK Daily Mail and Oz Daily Telegraph), allowing it to fly in the passenger area rather than cargo. (He is an infant, and was all wrapped up in bunny rugs).

    For non-LE regulars, LE’s “fascination” gave rise to related posts: Not Just Monkey Business (2008-03-16) about Chico the monkey sentenced to death, and Trespassers will be prosecuted (2008-10-22) where various farm animals were served with a trespass notice, and a dog was a witness at a murder trial.

  3. Ken N
    Posted January 24, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    My skepticism light flashed with this story. It came from a phone conversation Reuters (it didn’t say where, presumably a stringer in Nigeria) had with a police chief.
    It might be one of those stories too good to check.
    Living overseas, as I have done a couple of times, I read many strange stories out of Australia that no-one in Australia had ever heard of.

  4. Posted January 24, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] “Nigerians sniggering at the gullibility”
    Anyway asking for donations to fund the defence lawyers?

  5. Posted January 24, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Dear Famous Australian bloggers, I am nephew of former President of Nigeria, his most Excellent Mr Sani Abacha…

  6. Ken N
    Posted January 24, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    SL: Yes, I got an email like that the other day.
    It sounded too good an opportunity to miss, so I…..

  7. Posted January 24, 2009 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    I’d imagine any executions of goats would be medium-rare.

  8. Posted January 24, 2009 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Stop kidding around, Dave, that really gets my goat.

  9. Posted January 24, 2009 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    This is actually not quite as bizarre as it seems on first blush. A bear in Macedonia, which repeatedly raided a beekeeper’s hives, and was found guilty last year of theft and criminal damage; and the wonderful movie The Hour of the Pig (imdb) reflects the common practice in the middle ages of putting animals on trial. There’s more on my blog here.

  10. Posted January 25, 2009 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Dare I say it … Smokies and the Bandit?

  11. Posted January 25, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    DEM: Perhaps this would be a case of corrupt cops smoking the accused rather than the evidence.

  12. Posted January 25, 2009 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    At least there’s no chance of an “ad hominem” attack by one of the lawyer on non-hominids which are accused or witnesses.

  13. Posted January 26, 2009 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    DAVE: Not the first time Nigerian police would have used a blow-torch on a suspect, I’m sure…

  14. Posted January 26, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Does it have the right to legal representation? To be treated equally before the law?

    What about the right to remain silent? Anything it says can and will be used against it?

    PROSECUTOR: Do you deny expressing an interest in Japanese budget cars?

    GOAT: Bleat, bleat, bleat

    PROSECUTOR: Ladies and the gentlemen of the jury I rest my case you all heard what the accused said.

    (Gavel bangs)

    JUDGE: The accused will refrain from eating the leatherette of the witness stand…

    I guess the goat will sentenced to a Nepalese restaurant or some such.

  15. Posted January 26, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Continuing Adrien’s sketch theme:
    When the goat takes an oath on the bible, rather than a human hand, the /functional/ equivalent, because it is the part of the goat most used for manipulating things, must be the tongue:

    Clerk: “Place your manipulative body part on the bible and…”

    Goat: (munch!)

    Is there any comedic sketch that /has/ been created of animals either in the dock or the witness stand? Please let me know!

  16. TerjeP
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Somebody should lock up these animals.

  17. TerjeP
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    p.s. Isn’t there a sketch in one of the Goodies episodes where the farm animals take their case to court.

  18. Posted January 27, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Well the problem is that it’s a goat and so The Bible isn’t a good idea. I think maybe we need an alternative for goats.


    Now next up I want to know about trying cats….

    Place you paw on the Bible. Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you’re about to give shall be the truth…

    Hey! Come back here. Don’t yawn at me! How dare you show be your arse I’m an officer of the court! 🙂

5 Trackbacks

  1. By » Are some goats more equal than others? on January 24, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    […] Eagle, on Skeptic Lawyer, tells us that a goat is being held on suspicion of committing an armed robbery in […]

  2. By Armed Robbery: Goat Held « SUNDAY FUNNIES on January 25, 2009 at 4:20 am

    […] to LegalEagle who seems to have a particular obsession with the prosecution of livestock. Posted by […]

  3. By Enraptored with animal law « Balneus on January 26, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    […] discussion on animals and the law there, starting with the most recent post on the subject, "All goats equal before the law" (2009-01-24), where the unfortunate quadruped was arrested for armed […]

  4. By skepticlawyer » Mens rea of a monkey… on March 12, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    […] all know that I’m obsessed with animals and the law, and I’ve discussed the case of Chico the delinquent macaque. Well, Santino the chimpanzee […]

  5. By Skepticlawyer » Property and animals on May 10, 2011 at 12:27 am

    […] can be seen from a series of previous posts: animals being restrained from trespassing, a goat held on suspicion of committing an armed robbery, Chico the delinquent macaque, Santino the delinquent chimp (who suffered a most awful punishment), […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *