I Find the Defendant Guilty … and a Rooster

Medieval Court Cases: Animals on Trial?

I was reading a book called “The Moral Lives of Animals” and it mentioned famous animal court cases. In Medieval times, it was not uncommon to put animals on trial. The charged animals were provided with a lawyer and the right to a fair trial. E. P. Evans wrote a book describing 191 animal trials, most of which took place in Europe. Punishments for animals were consistent with how a human would have been punished for similar offenses. Animals were sentenced to death, pardoned, or even excommunicated. One interesting case involved a mother pig and her six piglets. They were charged with murdering an infant. The mother pig was hung from the gallows, but the piglets were pardoned “on account of their youth and their mother’s bad example.”

The article also lists some famous and bizarre court cases at the end. These extra stories include a rooster who was found guilty of sorcery and burned at the stake. My favorite story was about mosquitoes being found not guilty because of a lawyer’s convincing argument. After the case, the townspeople took pity on the pests. These cases are crazy to us today. However, during the medieval era, the belief that animals were morally culpable for their actions was very common. Interesting read! Have a great St. Patty’s weekend!

Trial of a Sow and Pigs at Lavegny.

Trial of a Sow and Pigs at Lavegny.

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