Animals Hanged for Crimes, article in The American Bibliopolist 1873
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The condemnation of an animal to the gallows for the crime of murder is by no means a singular example of the eccentricities of ancient legislation, at least in France. For instance, the 4th of June, 1094, a pig was hanged near Laon for devouring the babe of one Jehan Lenfant, a cow-herd. Again, on the 10th of January, 1457, a sow and her six sucklings were charged with murder and homicide on the person of one Jehan Martin, of Savigny, when the former was found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged by the hind feet from the branch of a tree. As for the sucklings, default of any positive proof that they had assisted in mangling the deceased, although covered with blood, they were restored to their owner on condition that he should give bail for their appearance should further evidence be forthcoming to prove their complicity in their mother's crime. That individual, however, declined to become in any way answerable for the conduct of such ill-bred animals, which were thereupon declared forfeited, — not to the parents of the murdered child, but to the noble damsel, Katerine de Bernault, Lady of Savigny. Yet again, on 2nd of March, 1552, the Chapter of Chartres, after due investigation of the circumstances, sentenced a pig, that had killed a girl, to be hanged from a gallows erected on the very spot polluted by the bloody deed. Even so late as the year 1612 a pig was convicted of having worried to death and partially devoured a child, fourteen to fifteen months old, the son of a mason residing at Molinchart, also within the jurisdiction of Laon. Nor was this all. Animals were liable to spiritual censures as well as to penal sentences.
We also have a record of excommunication being pronounced against insects which occurred in 1120, when a Bishop of Laon excommunicated the caterpillars which were ravaging his diocese, with the same formula as that employed the previous year by the Council of Rheims in cursing the priests who persisted in marrying in spite of the canons.
Still later, in 1516, the Courts of Troyes, complying with the prayers of the Inhabitants of Villenauxe, admonished the caterpillars by which that district was then infected to take themselves off within six days, on pain of being declared "accursed and excommunicated."