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by Edward Payson Evans

First published in 1906, Payson Evans’ The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals was a pioneering work of great breadth chronicling cases of animal prosecutions through the ages. It captures astonishing scenes of the hanging of pigs convicted of murdering a child (sometimes dressed in human clothing first); animals deemed to have taken part in, or indeed provoked, acts of bestiality; insects that wantonly and devastatingly ravaged crops and vines and destroyed livelihoods in the process. The doubt as to the presence of souls in animals meant that they could not be excommunicated but only declared anathema and great debate raged as to the correct form of punishment for crimes committed and, to a lesser extent, the notion of guilt in animals.

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