12.01.12

Germany Weighs Bestiality Ban Amid Rise of Pet Porn, Animal Brothels

Animal-rights activists are pushing Berlin lawmakers to outlaw sex with animals, as zoophiles there test the bounds of interspecies relations. Their issue: Can a pet give consent?

What happens behind closed doors may be nobody’s business. But when they are barn doors, it is an entirely different matter—especially in Germany, where lawmakers will vote Dec. 14 on a controversial bestiality law that could make having sex with animals a crime.

The root of the problem? An increasing number of erotic “touching” zoos and pet pornography that animal-rights activists say is abusive and degrading to animals because they are not consenting partners. “This kind of animal abuse is on the rise,” says activist Madeleine Martin, who is working to make the practice illegal in Germany. “There are even animal brothels in Germany.”

When one thinks of bestiality—which we assume is rarely if ever—any number of sheep and kitty wisecracks may come to mind. But zoophilia, as the practice of sex with animals is officially called, is not as rare as one might think. Zoophiles or zoosexuals tend to favor dogs, cats, and monkeys as mutual sex partners, but according to the entirely NSFW pro-zoophilia website zoophile.net dolphins, horses, goats, and pigs are also fair game. A preference for zoological affection is considered a lifestyle choice by those who quite literally “love” their animals, and the pets are often involved in sex acts between heterosexual and homosexual couples. There are also a number of beast brothels or “erotic petting zoos” in Germany, where paying customers can enjoy sex with any number of animals in a controlled environment or, in some cases, voyeurs can watch the acts in progress. Bestiality is not new. Cave drawings in Valcamonica in northern Italy dating back to 8,000 B.C. show a man and a deer in the act and ancient Greek and Egyptian texts clearly allude to carnal love between man and beast. The practice is addressed—and forbidden—in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Zoophilia is illegal in about a dozen U.S. states, punishable by fines and jail terms. There are a number of websites including pet-abuse.com that list alleged cases of abuse. It is also illegal in France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, punishable by fines and the sequestration of the animals. It is strictly forbidden in most Asian countries as well. The act was punishable by life in prison in the United Kingdom until 2003, when the maximum term for animal sex was reduced to two years. The act was legalized in Germany in 1969 after being banned for nearly a century, following pressure by animal-rights activists who pointed to a rise in animal injuries.  If the December 14 vote passes, those caught engaging in zoophilia could be fined €250,000.

“We see animals as partners and not solely as vessels for gratification.”

But not everyone agrees that there should be a blanket law forbidding the practice. “There must be proof that the animals are harmed in the act to make this illegal,” Michael Kiok of German Zoophile Engagement for Tolerance and Information told The Daily Beast. He believes that the animals display satisfaction and are willing partners in most cases, and that arousal and sexual response they exhibit can be interpreted as consent. “We see animals as partners and not solely as vessels for gratification.”

Kiok, a zoophile, says the group will sue the German government if the law is enacted. He also argues that as long as other practices that inflict pain on beasts, such as castration of cattle and branding of horses, are legal, then sex with animals should not be forbidden. He also points to the collection of animal sperm for artificial insemination in the agricultural industry as a comparable act, which he says is not addressed in the German draft law. “People have tried to create the false impression that we hurt animals,” he told Der Spiegel, explaining that animals are easier to understand than women.  “We don’t force them to do anything they don’t want to do.”