Guilty Pigs Review

Issue ThirteenIssue Thirteen Book ReviewsReviews

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By Chloe Britton

Written by Professors Katy Barnett and Jeremy Gans from the law school of the University of Melbourne, Guilty Pigs is a detailed, unique, and fascinating book that delves into the history of animal rights law. With cases from medieval times of murder trials for pigs and wolves, to modern day quarrels of dogs and house cats — this book is fascinating, absurd, and confronting all at once.


Guilty Pigs moves between each topic clearly. Chapter one, ‘Owning Animals’ introduces three pages under the sub-heading ‘Parallels with slavery’. It’s then broken down by the headings ‘Crocodiles’, ‘Fish and Shellfish’, and ‘Bees’. Each chapter includes examples of legal cases involving animals and humans from various points in time, with in-depth explanations as to how animal rights laws came to be. This structure allows the readers to fully digest the idea that animals have always been regarded as possessions and as indications of status or wealth for human beings.


The authors expand on many different subjects. For example, how humans have treated animals as property rather than living creatures since the beginning of time. They show how punishment for harming or killing an animal is not usually followed through with. The laws don’t focus on the animal itself. I found this to be an interesting distinction — we are not concerned about the animal, but humans and legalities. The book does a terrific job of bringing injustices most of us would never have thought of to our attention — and it’s one of the many reasons the novel is so interesting and thought provoking.


Guilty Pigs contains a great deal of jargon and technical terms, which the average reader may struggle to decipher, making it a hefty read. The authors clearly have in depth knowledge about the law and animals but some of the lengthy, technical descriptions tend to distract from the main topic. For people who don’t have a particular interest or knowledge of animal rights law, they could find it less appealing.


Whether or not you are intrigued by these topics, Guilty Pigs is something worth picking up. It is filled with intricate details and facts from a variety of reliable sources, a great diversity of material, and leaves us with a new perspective on the world and how we coexist with other creatures.