Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 9

BUGSANDBEASTSBEFORETHELAW

Murderouspigssenttothegallows,sparrowsprosecutedforchatteringinChurch,a gangofthievingratsletoffonawhollytechnicalacquittaltheoreticalpsychologist andauthorNicholasHumphrey*exploresthestrangeworldofmedievalanimal trials.

DetailfromfrontispieceofTheCriminalProsecutionandCapitalPunishmentofAnimals(1906)byE.P.Evans

On5March1986somevillagersnearMalaccainMalaysiabeattodeathadog,which theybelievedwasoneofagangofthieveswhotransformthemselvesintoanimalsto carryouttheircrimes.ThestorywasreportedonthefrontpageoftheLondonFinancial Times.Whenadogbitesaman,itissaid,thatsnotnews;butwhenamanbitesa dog,thatisnews. Suchstories,however,areapparentlynotnewsforverylong.Indeedthemost extraordinaryexamplesofpeopletakingretributionagainstanimalsseemtohavebeen almosttotallyforgotten.AfewyearsagoIlightedonabook,firstpublishedin1906, withthesurprisingtitleTheCriminalProsecutionandCapitalPunishmentofAnimalsby

E.P.Evans,authorofAnimalSymbolisminEcclesiasticalArchitecture,BugsandBeastsbefore theLaw,etc.,etc.Thefrontispieceshowedanengravingofapig,dressedupinajacket andbreeches,beingstrunguponagallowsinthemarketsquareofatownin Normandyin1386;thepighadbeenformallytriedandconvictedofmurderbythe localcourt.WhenIborrowedthebookfromtheCambridgeUniversityLibrary,I showedthispictureofthepigtothelibrarian.Isitajoke?,sheasked. No,itwasnotajoke.AlloverEurope,throughoutthemiddleagesandrightonintothe 19thcentury,animalswere,asitturnsout,triedforhumancrimes.Dogs,pigs,cows, ratsandevenfliesandcaterpillarswerearraignedincourtonchargesrangingfrom murdertoobscenity.Thetrialswereconductedwithfullceremony:evidencewasheard onbothsides,witnesseswerecalled,andinmanycasestheaccusedanimalwasgranted aformoflegalaidalawyerbeingappointedatthetaxpayersexpensetoconduct theanimalsdefence. In1494,forexample,nearClermontinFranceayoungpigwasarrestedforhaving strangledanddefacedachildinitscradle.Severalwitnesseswereexamined,who testifiedthatonthemorningofEasterDay,theinfantbeingleftaloneinitscradle,the saidpigenteredduringthesaidtimethesaidhouseanddisfiguredandatethefaceand neckofthesaidchild..whichinconsequencedepartedthislife.Havingweighedup theevidenceandfoundnoextenuatingcircumstances,thejudgegavesentence: We,indetestationandhorrorofthesaidcrime,andtotheendthatanexamplemaybemadeand justicemaintained,havesaid,judged,sentenced,pronouncedandappointedthatthesaidporker, nowdetainedasaprisonerandconfinedinthesaidabbey,shallbebythemasterofhighworks hangedandstrangledonagibbetofwood. Evansbookdetailsmorethantwohundredsuchcases:sparrowsbeingprosecutedfor chatteringinChurch,apigexecutedforstealingacommunionwafer,acockburntat thestakeforlayinganegg.AsIreadmyeyesgrewwiderandwider.Whydidnoone tellusthisatschool?Whywerewetaughtsomanydrearyfactsofhistoryatschool,and nottaughtthese?

IllustrationentitledTrialofaSowandPigsatLavegnytakenfromTheBookofDays(1863)editedbyRobertChambers

WeallknowhowKingCanuteattemptedtostaythetideatLambeth;butwhohas heard,forexample,ofthesolemnthreatsmadeagainstthetidesoflocustswhich threatenedtoengulfthecountrysideofFranceandItaly?ThePiedPiper,whocharmed theratsfromHamelinisapartoflegend;butwhohasheardofBartholomew Chassene,aFrenchjuristofthesixteenthcentury,whomadehisreputationatthebar asthedefencecounselforsomerats?Theratshadbeenputontrialintheecclesiastical courtonthechargeofhavingfeloniouslyeatenupandwantonlydestroyedthelocal barley.Whentheculpritsdidnotinfactturnupincourtontheappointedday, Chassenemadeuseofallhislegalcunningtoexcusethem.Theyhad,heurgedinthe firstplace,probablynotreceivedthesummonssincetheymovedfromvillagetovillage; buteveniftheyhadreceivedittheywereprobablytoofrightenedtoobey,sinceas everyoneknewtheywereindangerofbeingsetonbytheirmortalenemiesthecats.On thispointChasseneaddressedthecourtatsomelength,inordertoshowthatifa personbecitedtoappearataplacetowhichhecannotcomeinsafety,hemaylegally refuse.Thejudge,recognisingthejusticeofthisclaim,butbeingunabletopersuadethe villagerstokeeptheircatsindoors,wasobligedtoletthematterdrop. Forananimalfoundguilty,thepenaltywasdire.TheNormandypig,depictedinthe frontispieceoftheEvansbook,waschargedwithhavingtornthefaceandarmsofa

babyinitscradle.Thepigwassentencedtobemangledandmaimedinthehead forelegs,andthendressedupinajacketandbreechestobehungfromagallowsin themarketsquare. But,aswehaveseenwithChassenesrats,theoutcomeofthesetrialswasnot inevitable.Indoubtfulcasesthecourtsappearingeneraltohavebeenlenient,onthe principleofinnocentuntilprovedguiltybeyondreasonabledoubt.In1587,agangof weevils,accusedofdamagingavineyard,weredeemedtohavebeenexercisingtheir naturalrightstoeatand,incompensation,weregrantedavineyardoftheirown.In 1457asowwasconvictedofmurderandsentencedtobehangedbythehindfeetfrom agallowstree.Hersixpiglets,beingfoundstainedwithblood,wereincludedinthe indictmentasaccomplices.Butnoevidencewasofferedagainstthem,andonaccountof theirtenderagetheywereacquitted.In1750amanandasheassweretakentogetherin anactofbuggery.Theprosecutionaskedforthedeathsentenceforbothofthem.After dueprocessoflawthemanwassentenced,buttheanimalwasletoffontheground thatshewasthevictimofviolenceandhadnotparticipatedinhermasterscrimeofher ownfreewill.Thelocalpriestgaveevidencethathehadknownthesaidsheassfor fouryears,thatshehadalwaysshownherselftobevirtuousandwellbehaved,thatshe hadnevergivenoccasionofscandaltoanyone,andthatthereforehewaswillingto bearwitnessthatsheisinwordanddeedandinallherhabitsoflifeamosthonest creature.

DetailfromapageintheAppendixofTheCriminalProsecutionandCapitalPunishmentofAnimals(1906)byE.P.Evans

Whatwasthepurposeoftheselengthyandextravagantprocedures?Adesirefor revengecannothavebeentheonlymotive.Evanscitescasesofinanimateobjectsbeing broughtbeforethelaw.InGreece,astatuethatfellonamanwaschargedwithmurder andsentencedtobethrownintothesea;inRussia,abellthatpeeledtoogleefullyonthe occasionoftheassassinationofaprincewaschargedwithtreasonandexiledtoSiberia. Theprotectionofsocietycannothavebeentheonlymotiveeither.Evanstellsofthe bodiesofcriminals,alreadydead,beingbroughttotrial.PopeStephenVI,onhis accessionin896,accusedhispredecessor,Formosus,ofsacrilegiouslybringingthe papalofficeintodisrepute.Thebodyofthedeadpopewasexhumed,dressedinthe pontificalrobesandsetuponathroneinSt.Peters,whereadeaconwasappointedto defendhim.Whentheverdictofguiltywaspronounced,theexecutionerthrust Formosusfromthethrone,strippedhimofhisrobes,cutoffthethreebenedictory fingersofhisrighthandandthrewhisbodyasapestilentialthingintotheTiber. Takentogether,Evanscasessuggestthatagainandagain,thetruepurposeofthetrials waspsychological.Peoplewerelivingattimesofdeepuncertainty.BoththeGreeksand medievalEuropeanshadincommonadeepfearoflawlessness:notsomuchfearof lawsbeingcontravened,asthemuchworsefearthattheworldtheylivedinmightnot bealawfulplaceatall.Astatuefellonamanoutoftheblue,apigkilledababywhile itsmotherwasatmass,swarmsoflocustsappearedfromnowhereanddevastatedthe crops,theHolySeewasbecomingriddledwithcorruption.Atfirstsightsuch misfortunescanhaveappearedtohavenorhymeorreasontothem.Toanextentthat wetodaycannotfindeasytoconceive,thesepeopleoftheprescientificeralivedevery dayattheedgeofexplanatorydarkness.Nowonderif,likeEinsteininthetwentieth century,theywereterrifiedoftherealpossibilitythatGodwasplayingdicewiththe universe. Thesameanxietyhasindeedcontinuedtopervademoremodernminds.Dostoevskys IvanKaramazov,havingdeclaredthatEverythingispermitted,concludedthatwere histhesistobegenerallyacknowledgedeverylivingforceonwhichalllifedepends woulddryupatonce.AlexanderPopeclaimedthatorderisheavensfirstlaw.And Yeatsdrewagrimpictureofalawlessworld:

Turningandturninginthewideninggyre Thefalconcannothearthefalconer; Thingsfallapart;thecentrecannothold; Mereanarchyisloosedupontheworld. Yetthenaturaluniverse,lawfulasitmayinfacthavealwaysbeen,wasneverinall respectsselfevidentlylawful.Andpeoplesneedtobelievethatitwasso,theirfaithin determinism,thateverythingwasnotpermitted,thatthecentredidhold,hadtobe continuallyconfirmedbythesuccessoftheirattemptsatexplanation. Sothelawcourts,onbehalfofsociety,tookmattersintotheirownhands.Justastoday, whenthingsareunexplained,weexpecttheinstitutionsofsciencetoputthefactson trial,onecanseethewholepurposeofthelegalactionsasbeingtoestablishcognitive control.Inotherwords,thejobofthecourtswastodomesticatechaos,toimposeorder onaworldofaccidentsandspecificallytomakesenseofcertainseemingly inexplicableeventsbyredefiningthemascrimes. IreadsomeyearsagoanotherreportinaLondonnewspaper: Ajiltedwomanwhoattemptedsuicidebyleapingfroma12thfloorwindowbutlandedonand killedastreetsalesmanhasbeenchargedwithmanslaughter.ProsecutorsinTaipei,Taiwansaid 21yearoldHoYuMeiwasresponsibleforthedeathofthefoodsalesmanbecauseshefailedto makesurethattherewasnoonebelowwhenshejumped.Hohadarguedthatshethoughtthe manwouldhavemovedawaybythetimeshehittheground.Shealsosaidshehadthreatened earliertosuethesalesmanbecauseheinterferedwithherfreedomtotakeherownlife.If convicted,Hocouldbeimprisonedfortwoyears. Whosaysthatthemedievalobsessionwithresponsibilityhasgoneaway?Butitwas withdogsascriminalsIbegan,andwithdogsascriminalsIllend.AstoryinTheTimes someyearsagotoldhowadeaddoghadbeenthrownbyanunknownhandfromthe roofofaskyscraperinJohannesburg,hadlandedonamanandflattenedhimthe saidmanhavinginconsequencedepartedthislife.Theheadlinereadoh,howun newsworthy!DOGKILLSMAN.IwonderwhatChasseneorE.P.Evanswouldhave madeofthat.

NicholasHumphreyisatheoreticalpsychologist,basedinCambridge,whoisknownforhiswork ontheevolutionofhumanintelligenceandconsciousness.Hisinterestsarewideranging.He studiedmountaingorillaswithDianFosseyinRwanda,hewasthefirsttodemonstratethe existenceofblindsightafterbraindamageinmonkeys,heproposedthecelebratedtheoryofthe socialfunctionofintellect,andheistheonlyscientistevertoedittheliteraryjournalGranta. HismanybooksincludeConsciousnessRegained,AHistoryoftheMind,LeapsofFaith,The MindMadeFleshandmostrecentlySoulDust.Hehasbeentherecipientofseveralhonours, includingtheMartinLutherKingMemorialPrize,thePufendorfmedalandtheBritish PsychologicalSocietysbookaward. *(Articleadaptedfromseveralsources,bypermission)

9 Responses to Bugs and Beasts Before the Law


1.

Gerardo Martnez on 23rd August 2011 at 9:38 pm

There is a story happened around 2005 in a Mxicos village. A she-ass was convicted of murder, when she killed a tortillas saleswoman. It was reported at Metro newspaper.
REPLY

2.

BUGS AND BEASTS ON TRIAL Porpentine on 6th January 2012 at 5:01 am


[...] The rats had been put on trial in the ecclesiastical court on the charge of having felonio [...]

3.

Hang Em High Sacred Heart of Odin on 4th March 2012 at 5:31 pm


[...] the Public Domain Review: All over Europe, throughout the middle-ages and right on into the 19th century, animals were, as [...]

4.
Albert Vogler on 10th March 2012 at 1:58 am

I read the Evans book many years ago at the Brooklyn Public Library in NY. It was a reference copy, so I had to read the whole thing right there. Incidentally theres a fascinating British film called The Advocate (1993) in which a pig is tried for murder in medieval France; its well worth seeing.

REPLY

5.

Chauvet on 7th April 2012 at 5:33 pm

Hi, Thanks for this good article. Could you please tell me what is the reference of the second draw (pig) ? Best, D Chaucet
REPLY

Adam Green on 9th April 2012 at 11:31 am


Dear D Chaucet, Sorry, the source should have been referenced below the picture I will get on to doing that. The illustration is entitled Trial of a Sow and Pigs at Lavegny, and is taken from The book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography, & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character (1863) edited by Robert Chambers. You can see it in its original home herehttp://archive.org/stream/cu31924014604627#page/n139/mode/2up
REPLY

6.

R Badd on 19th June 2012 at 12:04 pm

No, Canute didnt try to stop the waves his point was that he couldnt. Now Im wondering how much of the rest of this article I can rely on
REPLY

7.
Nicholas Humphrey on 20th June 2012 at 3:24 pm

The point surely is that Canute did try to stop the tide, just so as to prove his attempt would fail. See this passage from the entry about Canute in Wikipedia:

Henry of Huntingdon, the 12th-century chronicler, tells how Cnut set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes. Yet continuing to rise as usual [the tide] dashed over his feet and legs without respect to his royal person. Then the king leapt backwards, saying: Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws. He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again to the honour of God the almighty King.
REPLY

8.

Miranda Nesler on 10th October 2012 at 5:20 am


This is a fantastic resource! And interesting especially with comparative thinking (for example, given how few to no English animals were executed though tried, compared to the Continent). If you have other research or thoughts youd like to share, Id love to talk more as I begin my own hybridity research.
REPLY