An interesting aspect of the culture of torture during the Middle Ages was the judicial torture and execution of animals. The most common victim was probably the pig.
Generally, trials against animals took two forms. In civilian courts, large animals like pigs and donkeys were tried individually or in groups for specific instances of criminal behavior. In ecclesiastical tribunals, whole communities of smaller animals, for example rodents and insects, were tried symbolically to call down divine retribution on them.
In order to emphasisize the anthropomorphic nature of their crime, animals would sometimes be dressed in clothes and tied down in a sitting position during their trial. One of the best known cases comes to us from 1386, when a sow from Falaise in Normandy maimed a child, tearing his face and arm. Edward Payson Evans, an authority on such animal trials:
"...the sow was dressed in men’s clothes and executed on the public square near the city hall at the expense to the state of ten sous and ten deniers, besides a pair of gloves to the hangman."
In 1510, rats were tried before the ecclesiastical court of Autun in Burgundy on the charge of having eaten up and destroyed the barley crop of the province. A distinguished jurist named Bartholomew Chassenée was appointed by the authorities to be advocate for the rats. Chassenée argued that the rats had not been given formal notice and succeded in obtaining a decision that the priests should announce an adjournment and summon the defendants to appear on a specific day. He then argued that the delay given his clients had been insufficient because the roads were full of "evilly disposed cats" that belonged to the prosecutors. Chassenée demanded a cash guarantee that the cats would not harm his "clients" on their way to court. The prosecution refused, winning Chassenée a dismissal.