Prosecuting Animals as Criminals in Medieval Europe
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Focusing on representative legal procedures involving animal defendants, ideas of order, authority, and control are explored. Bartholomé Chassenée’s activities as defense lawyer for accused rats and woodworms underscore the lengths religious authorities were prepared to go to defend medieval culture as divinely ordained. Criminal activity, canon law, and court trials reveal the nature of social crises and religious anxiety by examining violence against animals and the legal mores which allowed law courts to provide a venue for the struggle against the demonic and the forces of chaos. Proper procedure was followed, animals had attorneys representing them, and real courts handed down real verdicts. The church and official religion play a key role.