Monday, 10 June 2013

Prosecuting animals in Medieval Europe : possible explanations

Introduction: From the ninth to the nineteenth century, more than two hundred well-recorded animal trials took place in Western Europe. Of these, the majority took place in the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries and were limited to certain regions. Animals known to have been prosecuted during this period include asses, beetles, bloodsuckers, bulls, caterpillars, chickens, cows, dogs, dolphins, field mice, flies, goats, grasshoppers, horses, mice, moles, pigs, rats, sheep, snails, termites, wolves, worms and miscellaneous vermin. For example, in 1474 in Basle, Switzerland, a cock was tried on the charge of laying an egg. The valiant efforts of the defence council who claimed that laying an egg was an involuntary act and therefore not punishable in law, could not prevent the cock from being burnt at the stake.

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