I already wrote an entry defending incest[1], so I figured why not write about another sex taboo? This time, I’ll be exploring the ethics of beastiality.

Beastiality

Is it wrong to have sex with non-human animals?

So to answer this question, I’ll start by stating my values. I ultimately value something like increasing well-being and decreasing suffering. So, considering my values, the above inquiry boils down to two questions:

Question #1: How does beastiality affect non-human animals?
Question #2: How does beastiality affect humans?

I’ll start with question 1.

How Does Beastiality Affect Non-Human Animals?

There is a concern that non-human animals are incapable of consent. But clearly, some non-human animals such as dogs are capable of consent.

Think of the consent standards we hold humans to. Do we expect that every time two people have sex, they both verbally consent to everything that happens? No. There are many ways a person can communicate consent besides a direct, verbal yes or no. Non-human animals are no different.

Let’s take the most obvious example. A non-human animal initiates sex with a human. I’ve seen dogs hump people before unprompted. How can one say dogs can’t consent when they can initiate? In this example, the dog isn’t being forced. It’s not being coerced or bullied. It’s just a horny dog doing what horny dogs do. I think it’s safe to say the dog isn’t being harmed, and probably is enjoying itself.

What about less clear cut cases? What if the human initiates, but the non-human animal doesn’t resist and isn’t being intimidated or coerced? There is a power differential, but that doesn’t make consent impossible, just tricky. The important question is “Is the non-human animal being harmed, physically or psychologically?”. If not, then I’m all out of objections.

How Does Beastiality Affect Humans?

What about humans? Does sex with non-human animals negatively effect us? Let’s come back to the question of consent again.

Can a non-human animal rape a human? Actually yes, it is possible and it does happen. There have been cases of orangutans raping humans. Obviously, it’s very bad for the human, but they’re wild animals following their instincts. We cannot teach wild animals not to rape and cases like this are very rare. In almost every case, if a human is having sex with a non-human animal, it’s because they want to do it. As long as the person is educated about the risks involved and has freely decided to take those risks, I don’t see why it would be ethically wrong.

Diseases

Now there is one big issue I glossed over, on both the non-human animal side and the human side, and that’s diseases.

Animals can transfer dangerous diseases to humans such as rabies[2]. Humans can also transfer diseases to animals. I want to make it clear that I don’t have any specialized knowledge on this topic. I’m not a veterinarian or a doctor, so I could be completely wrong on this, but diseases are my main concern with beastiality.

Seeing the havoc Covid-19 continues to cause, I think we have good reasons to be worried about new infectious diseases hopping across species. My lack knowledge in the area of diseases and the fact that it’s not well-researched precludes me from forming a definite opinion. I don’t know how severe the risk of disease transmission is, so I won’t make a final moral judgment about beastiality.

The Least Convenient World

Ending on that note isn’t very satisfying, so let’s explore the least convenient possible world[3].

If I’m trying to show beastiality is morally wrong, the least convenient possible world for me is one where the non-human animal nonverbally consents and there’s no risk of disease transmission or physical damage to the human or non-human animal due to sex organ size differences.

If it can be shown that the real world is close to the anti-zoophile’s least convenient world, for instance if dangerous new diseases are extremely unlikely to be transmitted cross-species with the animal species that humans tend to have sex with, then I would see no problem with beastiality and I would agree with legalizing it for those specific animals.

For animals where there’s a high chance of transmitting dangerous new diseases cross-species, regardless of whether it’s human-to-animal or animal-to-human, then beastiality would go against my values by decreasing well-being and I might support criminalizing beastiality with risky animals.

Stigma Against Beastiality

That said, there seems to exist a certain stigma in discussions about beastiality and I don’t think this entry would be complete without mentioning it. People feel that it’s disgusting. But again, I have to restate that no matter how disgusting one finds something, that’s not an argument against others having the freedom to do it.

There are other legitimate concerns about beastiality that I’ve already mentioned, such as consent and disease. But grossness just is not relevant to the ethics of it. If you find beastiality gross, then don’t have sex with animals. But don’t use your disgust as a justification for taking away others’ freedoms. Find a better justification.

Link(s):
1: There Is Nothing Wrong With Incest
2: Rabies
3: The Least Convenient Possible World