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Is A Chicken A “Beast”? Trust Me, It Matters!


Why on earth would it matter if a chicken is a “beast” or not? Well, it mattered a great deal to a man in Indiana who was charged with sodomizing a “beast.” Or, as set forth in the opinion:

[Mr. Murray], without benefit of counsel, entered a plea of guilty to a charge by affidavit that he committed the “abominable and detestable crime against nature with a beast …”

Armed with a lawyer, based on the title of the post, you can probably guess what the defense was.

[Mr. Murray] contends that the term “beast” as used in Sec. 10-4221, supra, does not include “fowl” …

This is Indiana – in 1957. How do you think that argument was received? Webster’s Dictionary looked to offer some encouragement.

2. Any four-footed animal, as distinguished from birds, reptiles, fishes and insects.

Hmm. What about definitions 1. and 3.?

1. Any living creature; any animal. 3. An animal; – distinguished from man.

Uh oh. The court also noted that …

Under a statute concerning cruelty to animals, this court has held [in 1887!] that a fowl, i.e., a goose was an animal.

A duck has been held to be an animal under an English statute pertaining to sodomy. Reg. v. Brown (1889).

Said the Supreme Court of Indiana …

In our opinion a chicken is a beast within the meaning of that term as used in Sec. … Judgment affirmed.

The case is Murray v. Indiana, 143 N.E.2d 290 (1957).