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The Law Is a White DogHow Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons$
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Colin Dayan

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691070919

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691070919.001.0001

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Who Gets to Be Wanton?

Who Gets to Be Wanton?

(p.177) 6 Who Gets to Be Wanton?
The Law Is a White Dog

Colin Dayan

Princeton University Press

This chapter explains that in the trade-off between dignity and degradation, the rights of humans are pitted against the treatment of animals. Recall earlier discussions of retribution for unnatural deaths in biblical and classical texts—the ox that gores must be stoned—and the medieval trials and executions of animals: the pigs who ate children, the dogs who bit, or the cats who spooked. In the distant past, animals were taken as seriously as humans, given the dignity of trial, even the recognition that comes with sudden agony. Highly unnatural religious fictions gave rise to issues of legality. Punishments ritually communicated to animals the horror of their deed. Treated as if rational beings, they were expected to take responsibility for their crime. However, these legal rituals were granted only to domesticated animals, not to the untamed, such as tigers.

Keywords:   dignity, degradation, human rights, animal treatment, religious fictions, legality, punishments, legal rituals, domesticated animals, untamed animals

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