In legal history, an animal trial was the criminal trial of a non-human animal. Such trials are recorded as having taken place in Europe from the thirteenth century until the eighteenth. In modern times, it is considered in most criminal justice systems that non-human creatures lack moral agency and so cannot be held culpable for an act.
And, who hasn’t heard of the horrific Salem, Massachusetts Witch Trials where more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft between 1692 and 1693 with over 20 being executed?
Sometimes fear and hysteria cloud reason and logic, but the folks in Salem really defied both when they held the Salem Tomato Trial.
Tomatoes, shortly after their introduction to the western world, were long considered to be a poisonous fruit.
After all, logic said that red means danger.
Tomatoes were also considered to be a sinful food due to its mild aphrodisiac properties. When the tomato, a rare and exotic plant native to South America, was first introduced to European culture, society shunned tomatoes under the pretense that they were poisonous.
Fortunately the myth was quickly dispelled once the French and Italians discovered they were not!
Tomatoes became known as the love apple because its bright red color and sweet, tangy flesh made it the perfect symbol for an aphrodisiac.
John Gerard, a barber/surgeon and one of the fruit’s earliest cultivators in the US, believed them to be poisonous because they contained low levels of a toxin called tomatine. At the time tomatoes were nothing more than an ornamental plant
The people of Salem apparently knew nothing about what the French and Italians had discovered so tomatoes were put on trial in the town’s courthouse in 1820, to answer for their toxicity.
Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson, who had been holding competitions to see who could grow the biggest tomatoes every year, didn’t believe tomatoes were poisonous. In fact, he even offered a prize to the winner. Also, he had secretly been eating them. The public thought Colonel Johnson was some kind of a lunatic.
So, one day Colonel Johnson walked in front of the crowd with a basket of tomatoes and much to the horror of the spectators began eating them much to the shock and horror of the spectators...the man was defying scientific and religious beliefs. His feat disappointed a few people had hoped to watch him die a horrible death. After Colonel Johnson’s theatrical display, the tomato’s toxicity was disproved.
As for the belief that red is a sinful color, it’s not clear how that affected tomatoes, but at one point red was associated with prostitutes and brothels and even today some people consider certain colors, red among them, to be obscene.