Animal trials

Exploring the human desire for retribution
by
May 2022, no. 442
Buy this book

Guilty Pigs: The weird and wonderful history of animal law by Katy Barnett and Jeremy Gans

La Trobe University Press, $34.99 pb, 355 pp

Animal trials

Exploring the human desire for retribution
by
May 2022, no. 442
Trial of a sow and pigs at Lavegny in 1457 from The Book of Days (1869) by Robert Chambers (Wikimedia Commons)
Trial of a sow and pigs at Lavegny in 1457 from The Book of Days (1869) by Robert Chambers (Wikimedia Commons)

The title of this book, Guilty Pigs, is a reference to the medieval practice of bringing animals and insects to trial and/or punishing them for their conduct, such as killing humans, or destroying orchards, crops, and vineyards, or, in one case, chewing the records of ecclesiastical proceedings. The behaviour of the animal or insect determined whether proceedings were brought in secular or ecclesiastical jurisdictions. A charge of homicide would be initiated in secular tribunals, where domesticated animals such as pigs, cows, and horses were tried and punished, invariably by pronouncement of the death penalty. When animals and insects such as rats, mice, locusts, and weevils invaded houses, fields, or orchards, proceedings were brought in ecclesiastical courts, which eschewed the death penalty, instead excommunicating the hapless defendant.

Sophie Riley reviews 'Guilty Pigs: The weird and wonderful history of animal law' by Katy Barnett and Jeremy Gans

Guilty Pigs: The weird and wonderful history of animal law

by Katy Barnett and Jeremy Gans

La Trobe University Press, $34.99 pb, 355 pp

Buy this book

From the New Issue

You May Also Like

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.