« More reflections on hiring | Main | Research Canons: Employment & Labor Law »

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

State v. Fido

In 1750, in Vanvres, France, an unmarried couple was caught in flagrante delicto. Pursuant to the ecclesiastical law of the time, they were tried and convicted of fornication and sentenced to be hanged. The man, Jacques Ferron, went to the gallows, but community sentiment swelled on behalf of his partner. The townspeople swore an affidavit that they knew her to be “virtuous and well-behaved”, and the judge, moved by popular sentiment, pardoned her. Oh, and there’s one detail I left out: the female defendant was a donkey.

This story comes from one of easily the strangest, but also one of the most interesting, law books I’ve read recently: E.P. Evans’ The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals. The monograph, originally published in 1906, is about just what its title suggests—the medieval and early modern practice of subjecting animals to criminal process. Evans catalogues numerous cases where the state brought criminal actions against pigs, cows, donkeys, vermin, and swarms of insects. The accused were typically jailed (in the company of human inmates), tried (complete with publicly appointed defense counsel), and if convicted, subjected to sanctions that ranged from a knock on the head to capital punishments (hanging at the gallows, burning at the stake, and even burial alive).

Evans makes no secret of his disdain for these practices, and it’s easy to read the volume as an example of the transition (of both criminal law and society’s treatment of animals) from the benighted medieval world to the humane and enlightened modern one. But for a few reasons, I think the real story is a bit more complicated.

The stories Evans relates might be taken to suggest that to the medieval mind, animals and humans alike possessed equivalent moral agency—after all, why punish in the absence of culpability? But a closer reading of the evidence suggests that this isn’t quite right. Scholastic philosophers—including Aquinas—wrestled with the conceptual issues raised by subjecting animals to penalties designed to regulate human society. Their solution relied on notions the modern mind would find familiar: an acknowledgment of animals’ limited sentience (after all, while not human neither are animals rocks or bacteria); and the need to incapacitate animals that placed humans in danger. And the notion of punishing animals is not entirely foreign in contemporary society, as anyone who has shouted “bad dog” at a miscreant pet can attest.

Nevertheless, something seems absurd and tragically unnecessary about the practice of publicly punishing animals for criminal acts (to say nothing of the practice of subjecting humans to the same treatment). If animals pose a danger to society and must be put down, fair enough, but why make a public spectacle of it? Evans locates this practice within the strikingly inhumane treatment of animals that prevailed in pre-modern Europe. There is certainly some evidence for this. The work of Robert Darnton and Mikhail Bakhtin on early modern popular culture each observe the prevalence of torturing animals as a form of entertainment during festivals. Darnton in particular notes the irony of this practice becoming particularly widespread during Enlightenment-era France.

Evans confidently asserts that animal treatment has improved since the illiberal practices that prevailed as recently as the early nineteenth century. But it’s worth pointing out that being subjected to criminal process wasn’t all bad for animals. Society’s greater sense of their agency entitled animals to legal process that occasionally resulted in clemency, such as the pardoned donkey in Ferron’s case or the French case of a sow and cow whose convictions of capital offenses were overturned on appeal. The idea that animals possess moral agency thus cuts in two directions. By contrast, the contemporary notion that animals are not persons under the law divests them entirely of any formal legal protections, save for those a local jurisdiction chooses to extent through anti-cruelty statutes. Modern state determinations that dangerous animals need to be put down are summary and unreviewable.

But things have to be better for animals nowadays, with at least a modicum of public-law protections, right? Probably, but it’s a closer call than Evans and others might assume. Many of the practices that prevailed in centuries past (publicly torturing animals as family entertainment, for example) wouldn’t wash today, thanks to both animal cruelty ordinances and public mores. But while we’ve grown squeamish about watching animals be tortured, we don’t seem to be particularly worried about the existence of the practice when it’s easily ignored. The onset of factory farming has probably enabled extreme animal suffering on a less visible but far more widespread scale than existed during the periods that Evans and others describe.

Despite this, though, I’d still guess that animals today are better off than they were in earlier eras, just as the quality of life for humans has seen massive progress since then. But while I loved reading the Evans monograph, I think there’s some danger in his assumption that the attitudes and practices it catalogs—however strange they may seem—are nothing more than absurd relics of long-gone, backward societies. These practices had thoughtful theoretical foundations based in the dominant ideas of the time and brought their own balance of social costs and benefits. And I suspect that in a few hundred years, legal historians may look at our own conceptual and practical approach to animal welfare (near-total denial of animals’ legal status, widespread toleration of extremely cruel farming techniques) with the same mixture of horror and amusement with which contemporary readers regard the practices described in Evans’ book.

Posted by Dave_Fagundes on September 27, 2006 at 12:06 AM in Criminal Law, Odd World | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c6a7953ef00d834eb991369e2

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference State v. Fido:

Comments

We deliver the highest quality products and service that will not only help your business grow exponentially, but we do so at an affordable price for every budget. When you work with 5 Dog Digital Marketing Agency, you’re making a solid investment in yourself.

Posted by: Web Design | Sep 16, 2020 2:58:43 PM

Thank you for sharing, really great idea.
Wonderful writing and interesting full text. Make readers want to read more and more! This is exactly what readers are looking for when reading books.
OEM pajamas

Posted by: Bruce Pang | Aug 13, 2020 5:26:32 AM

Thank you for sharing, really great idea.
Wonderful writing and interesting full text. Make readers want to read more and more! This is exactly what readers are looking f

Posted by: Bruce Pang | Aug 13, 2020 5:26:03 AM

Thank you for sharing, really great idea.
Wonderful writing and interesting full text. Make readers want to read more and more! This is exactly what readers are looking for when reading books.
OEM pajamas

Posted by: Bruce Pang | Aug 13, 2020 5:25:38 AM

Thank you for sharing, really great idea.
Wonderful writing and interesting full text. Make readers want to read more and more! This is exactly what readers are looking for when reading books.
OEM pajamas

Posted by: Bruce Pang | Aug 13, 2020 5:25:25 AM

At Mike Howell Digital we specialise in chatbots for sole traders running their own business, and small to medium sized business.

Posted by: Pal | Aug 10, 2020 2:17:23 PM

We offer a wide array of services designed to make any wooden floor gleam like new.

Posted by: Seth | Aug 10, 2020 2:16:31 PM

Great sites great links!

Posted by: fineas | Aug 10, 2020 2:15:51 PM

In case you require fake lawn for your garden at home, possibly the deck, yard, or a pet run; we most certainly have it.

Posted by: Codak | Aug 10, 2020 2:14:44 PM

Really nice post middletown ca real estate

Posted by: Sunfire | Aug 5, 2020 11:36:10 AM

Great post! Thanks for sharing your valuable insight with the rest of us.

Posted by: Contractor | Aug 3, 2020 4:33:47 AM

Very insightful article. Thanks for sharing this with the rest of us. Contractor

Posted by: https://www.treeservicelittlerock.net/ | Aug 3, 2020 4:31:34 AM

Super useful information, love the thought process

Posted by: Albany Concrete | Jun 20, 2020 9:12:17 PM

Very interesting! I love reading articles like this. It gives me more and more ideas.

Posted by: Dallas SEO | Jun 10, 2020 10:35:02 AM

Such a good read! I love how organize the ideas are. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: Red BBQ Dallas | Jun 10, 2020 5:15:36 AM

Such an interesting article! You really made your point clear.

Posted by: Reds Roadhouse | Jun 9, 2020 1:24:19 PM

Impressive ideas! Worth reading. Thanks for sharing this to us.

Posted by: David G. | Jun 9, 2020 6:29:57 AM

I have to agree with you. Such a good read!

Posted by: Sprinkler Repair | Jun 8, 2020 12:30:07 PM

Thanks for sharing. Please visit https://winston-salemnc.hbcarpetcleaning.com/

Posted by: Eddie Bodford | Apr 29, 2020 11:28:41 PM

Very informative blog post. Thanks for sharing this good article! Comptoir Quartz provides an innovative way to purchase your next granite or quartz countertops in this new era of online shopping.

Posted by: comptoirquartz | Apr 23, 2020 9:50:27 PM

Smækker er en lille familieejet virksomhed, som er opstartet i september 2019. Vi fremstiller kvalitetsøreringe på eget værksted af udsøgte og håndplukkede materialer. Vore smykker er hovedsageligt fremstillet af 14 karat guld belagt på sterlingsølv og naturlige smykkesten, ædelsten og halvædelsten. Vi har ingen mellemhandlere, hvilket er til din prismæssige fordel. Vi bestiller råvarer hjem i mindre mængder, da vi gerne vil være innovative og bevare kreativitet i fremstillingsprocessen. Det betyder for dig, at der kun vil være forholdsvis få udgaver af det samme smykke og nogle varer vil blive produceret med små ubetydelige ændringer, alt efter tilgængelighed af materialer. Ethvert smykke lavet af os er således unikt. Det er vores ønske at skabe smykker, der kan være med til at definere dit personlige udtryk uanset om du er 13 år eller 83.

Posted by: Smaekker | Apr 8, 2020 5:15:40 AM

This is a great post. It caught my interest. Thanks for sharing from Carpet Cleaners Jacksonville FL

Posted by: Keith Horton | Apr 6, 2020 9:31:11 AM

This is such an interesting post. Thanks for sharing from Carpet Cleaning Burley ID

Posted by: Cory McEwen | Apr 6, 2020 9:23:17 AM

I like the topic you shared in your post. Thanks from carpet cleaners Ft Collins Loveland CO

Posted by: Joshua Swope | Apr 6, 2020 8:59:50 AM

Great post! We're offering therapeutic massage therapy services to the communities of Springfield Lakes, Brookwater, Augustine Heights & Spring Mountain.

Posted by: The Lakes Massage | Apr 4, 2020 12:27:51 AM

You discussed a great topic. Your post is very interest.

Need painters in Brisbane? We are professional house painters in Brisbane. Check out our website.

Posted by: House Painters Brisbane | Apr 4, 2020 12:26:24 AM

Good post! This is Sunshine Coast's best value self storage

Posted by: Alvin C | Apr 4, 2020 12:20:16 AM

Good read. I did not know about this practice. Thanks for sharing!

Looking for an Electrician in North Lakes? Visit our website.

Posted by: Electrician in North Lakes | Apr 4, 2020 12:13:38 AM

Thank you for sharing this interesting post.

Complete Chiropractic Care in Forest Lake, visit our website.

Posted by: Keith Charlton | Apr 3, 2020 11:25:18 PM

This is a good read. Thank you for sharing this information.

Posted by: Tree Lopping Ipswich | Apr 3, 2020 11:18:54 PM

I love that this is really informative. Thanks for this. I have had a good read!

Posted by: Learn More | Mar 18, 2020 4:52:20 AM

I love that this is really informative. Thanks for this. I have had a good read!

Posted by: tree trimming | Mar 18, 2020 4:51:07 AM

Great topic you bring to us! I always appreciate new topic.

Posted by: tree trimming | Mar 17, 2020 10:18:51 AM

Indenfor alle casino spil genrer findes der utallige varianter. På casinopenges hjemmeside kan du finde casino regler, strategier og tips til mange forskellige casinospils varianter. Med den optimale casino strategi kan du få pengene til du få pengene til at række meget længere, og dermed optimere dine chancer for at få den store gevinst. https://www.casinopenge.dk/

Posted by: Casi | Mar 16, 2020 4:04:01 AM

Hos Fair erhvervsoptik er vi klar over, at arbejde ved en skærm stiller høje krav til synet. Eksempelvis blinker vi ikke så ofte, og vi har en anden afstand og synsretning, når vi arbejder ved en skærm, end hvis vi læser på et stykke papir.
Ved computerarbejde flere timer hver eneste dag kan skærmbriller give en meget behagelig læseoplevelse.

https://www.fairerhvervsoptik.dk/

Posted by: Fair | Mar 11, 2020 4:31:19 AM

Interesting website!If you want more information visit es at Lift N Roll Towing, and contact us at (647) 691-0934

Posted by: liftnrolltowing | Feb 3, 2020 2:31:52 AM

Im really happy this post was created
https://secounseling.org/
http://www.southdenvertreeservice.com/
http://www.junkremovalcentennial.com/
http://www.pestcontrolparker.com/

Posted by: Noah Backlink | Dec 20, 2019 6:28:24 PM

Such good content.

Posted by: Click here | Dec 18, 2019 10:21:12 AM

Very interesting post. I've never heard about this practice. It seems a bit excessive to our eyes, and, as you suggest, it may have been, but one can see where these societies were coming from when one considers the high value of a mule or horse back then, as well as the financial and logistic difficulties in replacing them. With that in mind, one can see the necessity for a trial. To do otherwise would be like the government coming along and impounding your new car without just cause. A society wouldn't stand for it.

Posted by: Mike Mulligan | Dec 18, 2019 10:19:55 AM

Thanks for sharing this amazing post
https://www.allaboutrealestate.com/sell-my-house-fast-south-miami/

Posted by: Noah Backlink | Dec 13, 2019 8:51:50 PM

http://www.hamiltonphotography.ca/
https://www.hamiltonlawnandsnowcare.com/
http://www.stoneycreekcontractor.com/
https://www.hamiltonhomecleaners.ca/
https://www.hamiltoneventplanning.ca/

Posted by: Noah Backlink | Dec 4, 2019 4:32:37 PM

Quality Carpenter Port St Lucie is an excellent woodworking service provider for your construction needs.

Contact Details

Phone Number: 772-932-5878
GMB: https://goo.gl/maps/JHM5TvmVuV1zqbzPA
Website: http://portstlucie-carpenters.com/

Posted by: Lucie Carpenters | Nov 13, 2019 3:49:42 AM

Awesome!! Keep it up so I can come back for more.
https://partybussouthbend.com/index.html
https://auroratreeremovalpros.com/index.html
https://limoservicecedarrapids.com/index.html
https://fortwaynepartybusrental.com/index.html
https://www.chicagodrywallcontractors.com/
https://www.chicagoridgetowing.com/
https://www.oaklawntowingexperts.com/
https://www.orlandparktreeremoval.com/
https://www.highlandinlimoservice.com/
https://www.berwyntowingpros.com/
https://www.illinoiswindowreplacement.com/
https://www.napervillewindowreplacement.com/
https://partybusspringfield.weebly.com/

Posted by: john smith | Nov 8, 2019 5:39:17 PM

Really enjoyed this page.

Posted by: Mike Mulligan | Oct 22, 2019 1:51:40 PM

I Loved The Way You Discuss The Topic Great
Work Thanks For The Share Your Informative Post.

GMB: https://goo.gl/maps/K8QTuVW9rqW5D5mn7
Visit our website @ https://www.calgaryhottubservices.com

Posted by: Hot Tub | Oct 7, 2019 2:56:02 AM

Good Post!

Would you like to visit our website: http://www.731roof.com

We are Cincinnati roofing contractors proudly serving our area since 2007. Our expertise and quality work have given us Master Elite and Select Shingle Master status with the highest quality roofing suppliers. As Cincinnati roofers, we understand that your home is more than just four walls and a roof, which is why we are also a premier siding contractor and window contractor. So the next time you are in need of roofing, siding, or windows, give us a call. Schedule your free estimate today!

Thankyou! Have a nice day!

Posted by: Rob Mantanus | Sep 23, 2019 6:17:03 AM

Love It. Great Post.
Geotagged Map: https://goo.gl/maps/QET8vZMSVAEVVe2T8

Posted by: miami2019 | Aug 26, 2019 3:15:11 AM

Great post, please keep on sharing amazing article like this!
Visit our website at http://www.miamieifs.com or Call now +1-305-422-9627!

Posted by: Miami EIFS | Aug 22, 2019 11:31:16 PM

Whittier Demolition provides the best pool demolition services to all of California. As Professionals, We Provide High-Quality Services. An analysis of what you can expect your Whittier Demolition team will do your expatiations.

Posted by: Pool Demolition | Jun 15, 2019 2:53:10 AM

Whittier Demolition provides the best pool demolition services to all of California. As Professionals, We Provide High-Quality Services. An analysis of what you can expect your Whittier Demolition team will do your expatiations.

Posted by: Pool Demolition | Jun 15, 2019 2:52:24 AM

We always want to create a family-owned business that would allow our passion for food and our love of people to come together.
TLC Catering has given us the opportunity to share what we love with you. CALL (916) 454-0852 OR MAKE AN ONLINE @ www.tlc4catering.com

Posted by: TLC Catering | Jun 10, 2019 1:36:53 AM

Looking For Medical Benifits of Coconut Oils?

Posted by: Charles Freeman | Jun 2, 2019 9:40:11 PM

Thanks for the cool article

Posted by: Lori Page | May 22, 2019 9:35:44 PM

Looking for the best restoration company Rapid Restoration is open to serve! Contact Main Office: 772-343-0002 Now! You can also go to our place at http://rapidrestorationfla.com/

We are a locally owned and operated mold removal, flood water extraction and smoke/ soot restoration services company.

Posted by: Rapid Restoration | May 16, 2019 4:44:19 AM

Looking for the best rapid restoration company? rapid restoration Cocoa beach is open to serve! 321-723-1116 Contact Now! You can also go to our place at http://rapidrestorationfla.com/

Posted by: rapidrestoration Cocoabeach | May 16, 2019 4:21:01 AM

Nice article,keep it up. visit-http://gcpublicadjusters.com [email protected]

Posted by: GoldCoast PublicAdjusters | May 7, 2019 8:40:49 AM

Looking for the best company Boardwalk is open to serve! Contact Boardwalk 54-463-6969 Now! You can also go to our place at http://www.boardwalkftl.com/

Posted by: Boardwalk123 | May 7, 2019 12:44:49 AM

Looking for the best company of Appliance Repair Services? Contact A Plus Appliance Repair Now! 561-463-8079 or Visit us @https://www.aplusappliance-repair.com/

Posted by: A Plus Appliance | May 6, 2019 6:13:54 AM

Its very impressive posts. Thank you for sharing it. Keep it up. visit/call @http://richardsaviation.com/wp/ 954-292-7608

Posted by: Richards Aviation | May 3, 2019 10:04:18 AM

thanks for sharing, visit&call @[email protected]/954-242-9319

Posted by: CSICrimeScene Intervention | May 2, 2019 8:38:55 AM

Post a comment