"Procéder comme justice et raison le desiroit et requiroit". I processi contro gli animali nella Francia del tardo Medioevo: il caso del maiale tra XIV e XVI secolo

Giulia Rainis


During the Middle Ages, any domestic animal committing a murder against a human being would be subjected to human justice and, consequently, to a legal trial. The offending animal would be arrested and imprisoned just as a human would be, indeed often alongside humans; later, the authorities would conduct an investigation and, if found guilty, the animal would be sentenced to death. Its trial would be conducted along precisely the same lines as the trial of any human killer.
Nonetheless, hegemonic medieval thought considered animals to be irrational beings, unable to discriminate between good and evil. Though men refused to recognize animals as having an anima, they ascribed a kind of rationality and a sense of responsibility to animals through criminal proceedings, creating a powerful ambiguity between praxis and thought. Significantly, too, only domestic animals could be brought to justice and punished: they were part of the civitas and so subject to human laws – unlike wild animals living in the silva, which were subject exclusively to the law of God.

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