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Hang-Dog Looks: From Subjects at Law to Objects of Science in Animal Trials

Hang-Dog Looks: From Subjects at Law to Objects of Science in Animal Trials

Chapter:
Chapter Five (p.218) Hang-Dog Looks: From Subjects at Law to Objects of Science in Animal Trials
Source:
The Accommodated Animal
Author(s):
Laurie Shannon
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226924182.003.0006

A “hang-dog look” refers to the conscious look of guilt, or the fear and anticipation of punishment or shame, and is a deflated look often describing human defendants in courtrooms and the ordinary canine physiognomy in relatively equal measure. The question, then, is how did the look on an animal’s face come to represent such complex social experiences as guilt and shame? Although merely an expression to represent the shamefacedness of a particularly despised or degraded fellow, the term hang-dog also refers to the historical fact of dog hanging. This chapter, then, looks at the extraordinary phenomenon of the criminal and civil trials of animal defendants. It examines these legal trials and their implications, plotting their decline against the rise of the technoscientific or experimental trials of animals. In the first, the animals are perceived as subjects of law, whereas in the second, the perception of them is disanimated; they have now become objects of science.

Keywords:   hang-dog look, hang-dog, canine physiognomy, dog hanging, animal defendants, legal trials, trials of animals, subjects of law, objects of science

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