Animal

Animal Trial

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Written by Tadese Faforiji

Animal trial, as in legal history,  was the criminal trial of a non-human animal (Wikipedia). The majority of such trials as recorded occurred in Europe from the thirteenth century until the eighteenth. Just like humans, animals that became culpable of any offence were put to the law court, tried, and, if found guilty, killed or hanged publicly.

Now, it is considered that non-human persons lack moral agencynd so cannot be held culpable for an act,in most systems of criminal justice.

Animal Trials in History

Including insects, animals faced the possibility of criminal charges for many centuries across many parts of Europe (1). That is, such records of this kind mostly occurred in the continent of Europe.

The recorded execution of a pig in 1266 at Fontenay-aux-Roses is usually taken to be the earliest record of an animal trial. But there are many new researches that had condemned or challenged the veracity of this assumption. Notwithstanding, the European legal systems, until the 18th century, had several principles guiding such a trial.

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Defendants of the accused animals would appear before the secular courts, as well as the church to defend the offences alleged against the animal. Most of the offences were usually murder or criminal damage.  

In order to make the judgment inclusive, human witnesses were often heard, and in ecclesiastical courts the animals were procedurally provided with lawyers.

In most cases, if animals were convicted, they were to be executed or exiled. In a very rare occurrence, in 1750, a “female donkey was acquitted of charges of bestiality” due to witnesses to the animal’s virtue and good behaviour while her co-accused human was sentenced to death (Wikipedia).

Commonly Tried Animals

Notables animas that had been tried in history include pigs, dogs, cats, mules/donkeys, insects, roosters, rats, horses, wolves and others.

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About the author

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Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.

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