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Animals were Routinely Jailed, Tried, Convicted, and Executed in Medieval France.

One of the beautiful aspects of humanity is that we generally understand the difference between right and wrong. Humans understand that their actions have consequences. Animals, on the other hand. Since this is the case, animals should not be subject to police detention. But do you know why animals were routinely jailed in France?

In Medieval France, animals were routinely imprisoned, tried, convicted, and executed, and pigs apparently ate babies.

The Story About the Convicted Pig

Two herds of pigs killed a man named Perrinot Muet at a French monastery on September 5, 1379. As was customary at the time, the pigs—both the actual murderers and those who had simply stood by—were tried and sentenced to death for their heinous crime. The onlookers, you see, showed that they approved of the assault with their cries and aggressive actions, and they must not be allowed to escape justice.

But the prior of the monastery, Friar Humbert de Poitiers, couldn’t bear the economic loss of all those pigs. So he wrote to the Duke of Burgundy, begging him to pardon the onlookers (the friar, after all, would let the three murderers suffer their fate—he was no scofflaw). According to records, the duke lent a gracious ear to his supplication and ordered that the punishment be remitted and the swine released, though it was common for offending animals to be hanged or burned alive for their crimes.

Such is Europe’s shameful and largely forgotten history of putting animal “criminals” on trial and either executing them or ordering them to leave town not just by a certain day, but by an exact time, in the case of insect plagues. Such irrational barbarism is difficult to comprehend, but animals were held to the same moral standards as humans as early as 824, suffering the same capital punishments and even rotting in the same jails. (Source: Wired)

What are Criminal Bugs?

Bartholomew Chassenée was the most famous public defender of insects in the 16th century. He first demonstrated his prowess defending rats, which had feloniously eaten up and wantonly destroyed the barley crop of the French province of Autun. He argued that summoning all of his furry clients to court would be impossible. They should be excused on the ground of the length and difficulty of the journey, and the serious perils which attended it, owing to the unwearied vigilance of their mortal enemies, the cats, who watched all their movements and, with fell intent, lay in wait for them at every corner and passage, writes Evans.

Animal trials were brought to ecclesiastical courts because states were not fully developed as we know them today. And the courts’ authority lay in the power of ex-communication, which bars you from communion and the spiritual benefits of the church, as well as anathema, a type of ex-communication for non-church beings, such as animals.

Courts attempted to impose the anathema on Chassenée’s pestilent clients, and he firmly believed in the effects of this powerful curse. Consider how a priest once cursed an orchard because its fruits drew children away from mass and how it remained barren until the Duchess of Burgundy ordered the curse to be lifted. (Source: Wired)

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