If any dead or wounded beast should be found and it does not belong to a herdsman. First, there should be an inquiry in the four closest towns, which should be recorded; and the finder should be put by six pledges [i.e., the finder needs people to attest for him or her]; the flesh however should be sent to the nearest house of lepers, if there is one nearby in those parts, and this by the witness of the forester and the jury. If however there is no such house nearby, the flesh should be given to the sick and the poor. The head and skin should be given to the freeman of the nearest town; and the arrow, if one was found, should be given to the forester, and this should be recorded with his oath.There are a number of ways to approach this law's peculiar (but, as I've discovered, widely enforced) approach to poaching. I've been at it through the ideological utility of hunting to England's thirteenth-century elites, but there's also an approach that jives with discussions we've had repeatedly at this blog, namely, the power that the dead have over the living. When can a corpse finally be put to rest? Because of its illicit death, the carcass has become an uncanny, all too incarnate mockery of elite pretensions to inviolate mastery of violence. The illicit violence that the carcass suffered requires that it be ritually humiliated -- or so I argue -- by being fed to lepers. It is only then that the carcass becomes truly dead to the living. Here's what I have to say in the chapter itself:
Through this dual activity of rejection and distribution, the elites reestablish their control over violence in hunting preserves, perhaps the most privileged space for elites to practice, demonstrate, and uphold their exclusive right to violence. Through these two actions, the carrion laws protect the community—of humans or elites, depending on the law—from contamination. The double action also reforms the disrupted power over life and death by substituting the right of distribution and the right of denying consumption for the temporarily lost control over human space and its killings. While the meat itself is lost to dogs, pigs, bestial men, the poor, or lepers, the combined refusal and distribution returns what really matters, the control of meat and, in a broader sense, of death, to the realm of lawgivers and their agents.Forest animals that suffer proper deaths live on uncannily too. In Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan, Tristan explains how a deer's carcass should be treated after its dismemberment:
Ride two and two together and keep close beside one another, preserving the shape of a hart. Let the horns go ahead, the breast follow in their track, the ribs come after the fore-quarters. Then arrange for the hind-parts to follow on the ribs. After that, you should see to it that the quarry and fourchie bring up the rear--such is true huntsmanship. And do not be in too great a hurry--ride in due order, one behind another.In field butchery, human elites grant dogs and ravens little dainties, so emptying the flesh and body of the deer of its valueless portions. With this elimination, the deer becomes perfected, for nothing remains but what elites want for themselves. The deer has been made ready for a procession in which the very ritual that broke its body into pieces now grants it a return to a bodily integrity that is also a perfect materialization of elite power and its meaningful, absolute, creative violence. The reassembling of the dismembered carcass reminds me of the Japanese puppet theater of Bunraku, but perhaps still more strongly, because of the simultaneous fragility and completeness of the animal form, of those collapsible toy ponies of my childhood (when I depressed part of the statuette's platform, the elastic holding it upright would go slack, and its knees would buckle). I might not have been able to control my own bodily integrity, but at least I could take it away from others and grant it once more (under my terms).
I'm inspired to this little post by an astonishing case of necrobestiality (sfw) that our friend JKW sent to me:
Prosecution of a Douglas County case involving alleged sexual contact with a dead deer may hinge on the legal definition of the word “animal.”JJC has told us about fancy lawyers borrowing his professional expertise to map the history of one-eyed monsters. If only this case in Duluth were a bit, uh, fancier, I'm sure I could offer my services. I work cheap, even if it means going to Duluth (I've been a few times, and it would take a case like this to get me back). I might talk about what kinds of intimacy we are allowed with animals: why killing an animal to eat it is acceptable, even encouraged, while necrobestiality (or indeed any kind of necrophilia) is anathema. I might cite Cora Diamond, who observed in "Eating Meat and Eating People," that the prevention of distress may have little to do with our dietary decisions, since, after all, "We do not eat our dead, even when they have died in automobile accidents or been struck by lightning, and their flesh might be first class....We also do not eat our amputated limbs...It is not a direct consequence of our unwillingness to cause distress to people. Of course, it would cause distress to people to think that they might be eaten when they were dead, but it causes distress because of what it is to eat a dead person." With the weekend approaching, if you're willing, I open the conversation up to you: about the undead demands of carcasses (and corpses) on the living, of bestiality, of the common medieval puns on the games of Venus and the venerial games of the Hunt (all too literally enacted in Duluth), and of the justness of the prosecutor's claim that allowing Hathaway to get away with his pleasure would encourage others to kill animals for sex. Have at it, folks.
Bryan James Hathaway, 20, of Superior faces a misdemeanor charge of sexual gratification with an animal. He is accused of having sex with a dead deer he saw beside Stinson Avenue on Oct. 11.
A motion filed last week by his attorney, public defender Fredric Anderson, argued that because the deer was dead, it was not considered an animal and the charge should be dismissed. ...
A judge should decide what the Legislature intended “animal” to mean in the statute, he said. “And the only clear point to draw the line in that definition, I believe, is the point of death.”
Assistant District Attorney James Boughner said the court can use a dictionary to determine the meaning of the word, but it doesn’t have to.
“The common and ordinary meaning of a word can be found in how people actually use the word,” Boughner wrote in his response to the motion.
When a person’s pet dog dies, he told [Judge Michael] Lucci, the person still refers to the dog as his or her dog, not a carcass.
“It stays a dog for some time,” Boughner said.
He referred to the criminal complaint, in which Hathaway told police he saw the dead deer in the ditch and moved it into the woods. Hathaway called it a dead deer, Boughner said, not a carcass.
“It did not lose its essence as a deer, an animal, when it died,” he said.
Anderson argued that the statute, which falls under the heading “crimes against sexual morality,” was meant to protect animals. That would be unnecessary in the case of a dead animal.
Assizes of the Forest, in The Statutes at Large from the Second Year of the Reign of King George the Third to the End of the Last session of Parliament. ... With a Copious Index. And an Appendix, Consisting of Obsolete and Curious acts, ... Volume the Ninth. London: Printed for Mark Basket and by the Assigns of Robert Basket; and by Henry Woodfall and William Strahan, 1765, 25-6.
Diamond, Cora. "Eating Meat and Eating People." Philosophy 53 (1978): 465-79, at 467 (original emphasis).
Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan, with the surviving fragments of the Tristan of Thomas. Arthur Thomas Hatto, trans. New York: Penguin, 1960, 83.