Sexual Ethics: Bestiality

I once heard a comment that went something like this: Bestiality is one area where the left and right can come together. The right thinks it’s wrong because of sexual holiness, the left because of animal rights. The rest of us just say “who cares?”. Originally I was on the animal rights side of the issue, shocked that anyone could have a who-cares attitude. But thinking about it for this post I’m not so sure.

The holiness argument doesn’t need much refutation. It’s wholly religious. But if you’re religious, you’d also need to classify 100 other sexual activities as unholy, eg. NOT marrying your dead husband’s brother (Deut 25:5-10). There’s no secular holiness argument against bestiality [that I'm aware of] that doesn’t use the naturalistic fallacy (drawing moral conclusions from statements about how nature is). But the animal rights argument isn’t obvious either:

  • If you say it’s wrong as the animal can’t consent, this would rule out any contact with the animal that it would not perform without you. This prohibits all pet ownership, perhaps even rescuing kittens from a trees.
  • Maybe the distinction is that pet ownership don’t harm the animal (and even benefits it) but having sex harms/traumatises it. But surely non-abusive bestiality is at least possible (Skatje makes this argument EDIT: link is broken).
  • Maybe it’s wrong because though it may not harm the animal, it won’t benefit it. But this prohibits many other actions. If you’re driving and a cow blocks the road you wouldn’t be allowed to move it out of the way because, although it wouldn’t harm the cow, it wouldn’t benefit it either.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room. How is it even remotely possible for anyone to think it’s ok to kill animals for food and NOT ok to use animals for sex? I don’t want to discuss meat-eating or animal rights in this post — but surely you could never make a reasonable distinction. If you argue that meat eating is necessary for survival, even then it would only be ok to eat meat on VERY rare occasions. Most people are ok with eating meat for enjoyment’s sake alone. But then you should also be able to use an animal for sexual enjoyment, if this is something you’re into (even if this harms the animal since slaughter obviously doesn’t benefit the animal much).

There’s a very exclusive underground restaurant in Tokyo where “members pay a hefty fee at the door to be allowed to…’have their way’ with the animal of their choice – which is subsequently killed, cooked and served to the violator and his party for dinner”. Though I’d love to find a way to morally distinguish between the 1st part of the meal and the 2nd, I don’t think this is possible. On the bright side, it shows there’s at least some objectivity in morality, since reason gives a different answer to the gut. So, either bestiality isn’t wrong or meat-eating is; you must make a choice.

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The thinly-veiled identity of lives and rants in Sydney. Views not his own, provided by hivemind. All my original work on this blog is licensed under a CC BY-NC License.

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