In college I learned a song. The lyrics of that song are largely unpublishable, but I will share the refrain, which goes, “Bestiality’s best boys, Bestiality’s best (something unmentionable about a wallaby)!” It was sung in jest, by both guys and gals, and the point was (I hope) to horrify and not to instruct. I admit I laughed and sang along. A sense of humor goes a long way in keeping ones sanity, and I know the song was only part of a long and raunchy college tradition. Now that I recall those days of endless road trips, listening to my colleagues tone deaf voices proclaim what wonderful sexual acts would befall a myriad of animals, I wonder what sketchy part of my university’s tradition required immortalization in such verse.
Sex is still taboo in our society, and more risqué sexual proclivities are still in the closet, so to speak, though they are not as much of a sub-culture as some people think. Animal sex, with other animals, is not taboo. From dogs in the park to the Discovery Channel, you can watch animal porn to your heart’s content. But is it porn? That depends on the viewer. Porn is sexually stimulating, erotic, and is viewed for some sexual goal. If you tune in to the mating habits of the Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock (I couldn’t make that up) to further your understanding of genetic diversity, you’re a scientist. If your heart starts racing, be careful. I’m being a bit ridiculous, but when you consider that U.S. v. Stevens refuses to apply the same exemptions to the First Amendment that were extended to depictions of child pornography in U.S. v. Williams, while in the same stroke giving the go-ahead for crush videos, it isn’t absurd to wonder where we drawn the line when it comes to human with animal sex acts.
Bestiality, or zoophilia, falls on the unacceptable side of the line. The condemnation of bestiality does not come from a moralist viewpoint that interspecies sex is wrong, per se. It is wrong because it is rape. There is no way to obtain consent from an animal, a sad reality of miscommunication which makes animal law so challenging in the first place. On the federal level, bestiality is governed for military personnel. “Any person…who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with . . . an animal is guilty of sodomy.” 10 U.S.C.A. § 925. But that’s the extent of federal protection. At the state level, thirty states have laws against bestiality. While that is a majority, it is certainly less than the number of states with anti-cruelty laws, as I noted in my last post, and of those thirty only sixteen consider it a felony. The statutes making bestiality a felony range from detailed explanations, such as Arizona’s code, to vague but impressively powerful ones, such as in Rhode Island.
Why does bestiality receive less legislative attention than outright violence towards animals? I argue this happens for the same reason state laws punish offenders of certain sex crimes less severely than those who commit homicide. Depriving someone of life is much more serious than depriving someone of their dignity, or so the laws say. By benefit of leaving their victims alive, perpetrators of non-consensual sex are not punished quite so severely. Animal victims aren’t even always victims. In 2008, the Michigan Court of Appeals held in People v. Haynes that while a sexually abused sheep was the “victim” of a crime, sexual offender registration was only required if the victim was a human less than 18 years old, and is not intended to include animals.
I focus on the harm and the lack of voice animals have when it comes to this abuse, and when faced with drawing a line between good sexual contact with animals versus bad contact, I am more comfortable condemning all forms until I see better proof that this is a consensual activity. Peter Singer apparently disagrees with me. I’m not sure if animal and humans should be socializing in such ways, but I could be wrong. Certain states require psychological counseling for individuals convicted of bestiality, but when it comes to the actual attraction aspect, who am I to judge? Maybe we just need to encourage more furries. I do know that it is not right to subject animals to our sexual desires when we are unable to obtain consent. An important step in advocating for the rights of a group is respecting that group. You cannot respect someone you abuse or ignore, whether you are a peasant or a queen. When horses start writing love letters, maybe I will reconsider. Until then, let’s hope the laws can catch up to other animal abuse regulation.
Filed under: animal advocacy, animal cruelty, animal ethics, animal law, animal welfare Tagged: | 10 U.S.C.A. § 925, animal abuse, animal cruelty, animal ethics, animal law, animal rape, animal rights, animal sex, animal suffering, animal welfare, bestiality, crush videos, People v. Haynes, Peter Singer, pornagraphy, sex with animals, U.S. v. Stevens, U.S. v. Williams, zoophilia