Zoosexuality and the law

Zoosexuality and the law looks at the laws governing human-animal sexual interaction (also sometimes known as bestiality or zoophilia) around the world.

Because it is easy to determine when there is a law against, but (for reasons discussed) often less easy to reliably identify when it is legally acceptable, this article focuses upon laws against zoosexual activity and does not attempt to address where it may be legal. Only in a few confirmed cases, where it is clearly permitted, will these be stated.

Background to the legal framework


Zoosexuality is the spectrum of human-animal sexual interaction. Other than for breeding or veterinary purposes, in many countries humans are frowned upon if they interact with a non-human animal in this manner. Historically, sex with animals has been seen negatively in the West, generally either as a religious offense against God, or as a suspect or abusive act unsuited to the civilized world. Both of these are generally held societal views which persist to the present time.

A pivotal researcher in the field, Hani Miletski describes how: "Throughout the literature review, it is very obvious that authors perceive sexual relations with animals in very different ways. Definitions of various behaviors and attitudes are often conflicting, leaving the reader confused. Terms such as 'sodomy,' 'zoorasty,' 'zoosexuality,' as well as 'bestiality' and 'zoophilia' are often used, each having a different meaning depending on the author." Vern Bullough, a renowned professor emeritus who reviewed her work, states: "It seems clear from Miletski's summary of the existing literature that very little is actually known about bestiality and there is not anything approaching a consensus as to why animal-human sexual contacts occur... many of the existing reports and studies should be classified more as pseudo-science than serious research."

Historical and cultural context

Historically, European and western views on zoosexuality can often be traced back to religious influences and more specifically to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions under which it was viewed as an abomination and breach of God's will. During the Middle Ages this led to people being burned for zoosexual activity, viewed on a par with homosexuality under the term "sodomy", as one of the most horrific acts possible from a religious point of view. Animals suspected were also put on trial and faced being killed if found guilty (See: Animal trial).

In other cultures, it was at times accepted, or tolerated, and at other times taboo or punished, and this varied very widely.

However an examination of Hittite and Near Eastern Laws(Akkadian/Sumerian) shows the bestiality was punished in these ancient cultures as well. For instance a Hittite law reads "If anyone has sexual relations with a pig or dog, he shall die. He shall bring him to the palace gate(i.e. the royal court). The king may have them (i.e. the human and the animal) killed or he may spare them, but the human shall not approach the king. If an ox leaps on a man(in sexual excitement) the ox shall die; the man shall not die. They shall substitute one sheep for the man and put it to death. If a pig leaps on a man (in sexual excitement), it is not an offense." Additionally "If a man has sexual relations with either a horse or a mule, it is not an offense, but he shall not approach the king, not shall he become a priest." For further information Martha Roth's 'Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor' is an essential text. Because many cultures in Africa and the Americas did not leave written records the evidence for zoosexual activity arrives to us through the observations of westerners. This can be problematic for creating an overall idea of practice vs. law in these cultures, just as observation among the practice of Bedouins in the 19th century may lead to incorrect conclusions regarding Islamic law since the former did not widely practice the later despite being considered Muslims. Thus written records are the best indication for what other cultures, such as India or China, have felt about human sexual activities with animals through the ages. Further research needs to be done in these areas but aversion to Bestiality are not found only in west, aversions have been documented throughout the world, just as the widespread practice has been documented as exisitng side by side with laws condemning the activity.

In more recent centuries the subject was studied as a medical aberration, some form of throwback or degeneracy within medicine, and finally within the 20th century, came to be recognized as a sexual orientation in many cases.

Zoosexuality and Jewish law

The important citations for Bestiality in the Hebrew Bible can be found in the following laws: 'Whoever lies with a Beast shall be put to death' Exodus 22:19 'Do not have carnal relations with any beast and defile yourself thereby; and let no woman lend herself to a beast to mate with it; it is perversion.' -Leviticus 18:23 'If a man has carnal relations with a beast, he shall be put to death; and you shall kill the beast.' -Leviticus 20:15 'If a woman approaches any beast to mate with it, you shall kill the woman and the beast; they shall be put to death-their bloodguilt is upon them.' -Leviticus 20: 16 'accursed is one who lies with any animal.' And the entire people shall say 'amen'. -Deuteronomy 27:21

The Mishnah elaborates: Sanhedrin 7:4 "These are they that are to be stoned: he that has a connection with a beast, and the woman that suffers connection with a beast"

These important passages provide a basis for some understanding of the interpretation of Bestiality that is found later in various legal codes throughout Europe and the United States. Many of them will also appear in some form among legal codes in 17th century Europe.

Clinical and scientific context

In discussing arguments for and against zoosexual activity, the "British Journal of Sexual Medicine" commented over 30 years ago, "We are all supposed to condemn bestiality, though only rarely are sound medical or psychological factors advanced." (Jan/Feb 1974, p.43)

People's views appear to depend significantly upon the nature of their interest and nature of exposure to the subject. People who have been exposed to zoosadism, who are unsympathetic to alternate lifestyles in general, or who know little about zoosexuality, often regard it as an extreme form of animal abuse and/or indicative of serious psychosexual issues. Mental health professionals and personal acquaintances of zoophiles who see their relationships over time tend to be less critical, and sometimes supportive. Ethologists who study and understand animal behaviour and body language, have documented animal sexual advances to human beings and other species, and tend to be matter-of-fact about animal sexuality and animal approaches to humans; their research into animal behavior, emotion and sexuality is generally supportive of some of the claims by zoophiles regarding animal cognition, behaviour, and sexual/relational/emotional issues.

Attitudes outside science are discussed in greater length in the article on zoophilia.

Legal context

Laws on zoosexuality tend to be shaped by three main factors:

Issues confusing the matter are that such research as is available is not widely known, and that cases which come to public light may not be representative of the whole spectrum of this behavior.

Posner (1996) states, "there is some evidence that bestiality was particularly reviled because of fear that it would produce monsters... At early common law, there was no offense of cruelty to animals... The focus of [cruelty to animals] statutes is different from that of the traditional sodomy statute; anticruelty statutes are concerned with both the treatment of the animal and with the offense to community standards, while anti-bestiality provisions embodied in the sodomy statutes are aimed only at offenses to community standards."

Animal welfare bodies usually, but not always, view zoosexuality or zoophilia as a matter of animal abuse, or at the least, of concern. A notable exception is the Swedish Animal Welfare Agency, which in 2005 addressed concerns over a surge in horse-ripping incidents by reviewing the matter and concluded that although animal cruelty legislation needed updating, a ban on zoosexual activity was not justified by research.

Why is it difficult to list zoosexuality laws?

There are two main reasons why it is hard to be certain whether zoosexual acts are legal in a country or area. The terminology used in law may be vague, so it is not clear what is covered, and whilst it is usually clear if a specific law prohibits zoosexual activity, it is not always so clear (for several reasons) whether the absence of an obvious law means the opposite.

Vagueness of terms

Some countries list laws very clearly, such as the UK, which specifically prohibits penetration of a human being by the penis of an animal, and penetration of an animal by a human's penis.

By contrast many countries are quite vague about the exact scope of law. Terms such as "sex with animals", "sexual contact", "sodomy", "crime against nature", or "bestiality" are significantly lacking in legal precision, and as with many laws, what may seem very straightforward from a distance is very vague close-up in a courtroom. This also makes them indeterminate and leaves it unclear what exact activities such terms might encompass.

Difficulty in establishing legality

It is difficult to state with certainty which countries beyond these accept zoosexual actions in law. This is for many reasons, the main ones of which are:

1) Assumption of cruelty Even if zoosexuality is not explicitly prohibited, there are often many other laws which can be used to effectively prosecute cases. For example, most countries have animal cruelty laws, and a prosecutor will argue that all zoosexual activity is animal abuse.

2) Creative law use Some countries have a range of historic but vague laws on their statute books (for example sodomy laws, "crime against nature" laws, or other laws based upon the historical religious beliefs of the culture), and will prosecute under that. Even when these type of laws do not exist, it is often the case that a prosecution will be found on some ground or other, however contrived. Three examples:

"It was only after Pinyan died, when law enforcement looked for one way to punish his associates, that the legality of bestiality in Washington State became an issue ... The prosecutor's office wanted to charge [his friend] with animal abuse, but the police found no evidence of abused animals on the many videotapes they collected from his home. As there was no law against humanely [having sex with] one horse, the prosecutors could only charge [him] with trespassing."

3) Non-codified cultural prohibitions

Often there are traditions or unwritten cultural beliefs, such as tribal law or custom, which although not codified as legislation, carry an equal weight to any other law. These are sometimes called customary law, and are one of the main four legal systems in the world.

4) Social taboos Finally, whether or not legal, there are often social mores which frown strongly upon it. For example, even in Sweden, where zoophilia has been legal since 1944, Beetz comments on the findings of Ullerstam:

"It has to be noted in this context, that not having laws against a behavior and acceptance of it by society are two completely different matters... no acceptance of the persons engaging in this kind of sexual activity was adopted by the population. [...] Furthermore, Ullerstam referred to alleged evidence that showed, that many remarkable men had sexual experiences with animals and had to live a life in constant fear because of that. Those man had been widely respected, but would have lost everything if their activities would have become known; all their great contributions would have been forgotten due to a 'primitive moral reaction'."

For these reasons, this article only asserts legality where it is both confirmed and openly acknowledged custom and law that zoosexuality is legal, and where in fact it is openly confirmed, acknowledged or able to be practiced.

Overview of legislation

Laws in the West are in flux at the moment. Some countries such as the UK have recently (2002) relaxed their laws, whilst others (several US states) have recently introduced new ones where none previously existed.

A key factor seems to be the motive behind the change: in the UK the motive was a complete review of all sex offences, which concluded that a life sentence was inappropriately harsh. By contrast in Arizona USA, the motive for legislation was a "spate of recent cases" , and the Arizona legislator is quoted in that source as stating:

"Arizona appears to be in the minority of states that does not make sex with animals a crime. That doesn't necessarily mean we're wrong. But why shouldn't we be in line with everybody else if the rest of the nation thinks it's a problem?"

Common reasons given for laws

In cultures with a strong background in Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), personal or cultural beliefs about God's Biblical laws or God's plans for human sexuality are a strong influencing factor.

Against this, in some countries (notably the United States), courts have ruled that views on morality are not sufficient justification for law (Lawrence vs. Texas). In other cases (Muth v. Frank) have ruled adversely to a broader reading of that case.

A second major reason is the strong desire of society to outlaw and punish animal cruelty and animal abuse. Cultural and personal assumption, lack of informed knowledge, and cases of zoosadism have left society as a whole wary or hostile towards any belief that animals may engage in sex with humans on a mutual or non-abusive basis. (The article on zoosexuality considers research in this area in more depth). A factor in this is that prior research, often performed only on known incarcerated violent abuser populations and mis-cited by parties with vested interests, and described by professor emeritus Vern Bullough as "more as pseudo-science than serious research" and author assumption, was used for many decades as proof that zoosexual activity should be classified as a rare but profound sexual pathology.

Studies suggest that zoosadism, or wanton abuse, torture, violent rape or cruelty to animals, for example pet abuse or animal crushing, is a potentially strong indicator for abuse towards humans. Despite investigation, a similar link has not been shown with sexual activity in general or with zoophiles more specifically.

A major social factor in the proposed introduction of laws is the coming to light of specific cases to public attention; this was the case in Washington, Missouri and Arizona USA, and also behind recent attempts in 2004 to change the law in Holland. In such cases it often does not seem to matter whether there was abuse or not, or how rare or commonly such matters arise. Rather it seems to be a case of moral panic, or "not in my back yard."

Overall much of the concern can be summarized as coming from lack of knowledge, combined with repugnance at the concept of human-animal sexuality, presented in a societal context of religious or social abhorrance, and a desire to reduce abuse.

Laws against zoosexuality

Zoosexuality is permitted in a few countries, such as Sweden and Denmark, although ordinary animal treatment laws apply. In other countries, such as Germany and Russia, zoosexuality is legal, but zoosexual pornography is illegal.

Elsewhere in the developed world, it is a prudent assumption that it is illegal or at the least against social custom.

There are also commonly laws against forcing another person to engage in zoosexual activity, especially minors (usually considered equivalent to rape), and laws related to exposing others (either non-consensually or minors) to the sight of a sexual act. In some jurisdictions, laws against zoosexual conduct also include provisions for seizure of animals where convicted.

Sexual handling of an animal for the purposes of veterinary practice, or animal husbandry (breeding), is normally exempted where such laws exist. In public discussion for the recently passed Oregon law, however, one animal shelter's spokesperson wanted the husbandry exemption kept out, as he was concerned that someone might use these "accepted farming practices" as a legal loophole to then have (legal) sexual contact with an animal only for personal enjoyment. One of the legislators responded by asking if they were trying to outlaw an act (of sexual contact), or a state of mind. The veterinary and husbandry exemption was left out of Oregon's law in the final, enacted version.

National laws

Australia Illegal (under territory and state levels), except for the Australian Capital Territory and Jervis Bay Territory which do not explicitly outlaw it.
Belgium Legal. However the spreading of zoosexual pornography is not according to a court ruling in 2006 against a man who frequently had sex with dogs in a shelter he had worked for. He was acquitted from the charge of animal abuse and was only found guilty of violating public decency by spreading zoosexual pornographic material he had made at the shelter, which he did mainly via his website under the nickname Freki. The Belgian animal rights organisation Gaia, which filed the complaint, appealed unsuccessfully against the court ruling.
Cambodia Legal. As of 2005, police released a man suspected of zoosexual activity stating that while unusual, falling in love with a dog is not illegal. News24 - Redirect
Canada Illegal (section 160 Criminal Code forbidding "bestiality". The term is not defined, so it is not quite clear what it might cover)
Denmark Legal. A 2006 bid by the Danish People's Party to outlaw bestiality failed after the a report by the Danish Animal Ethics Council determined that existing laws were sufficient protection against abuse.
Finland Legal.
France Illegal since 2004, upheld by the Court of Cassation. It had been legal since 1791. Before 1791, bestiality was punished by death to the human and animal perpetrators.
Germany Legal. Sex with animals is not specifically outlawed (but trading pornography showing it is, cf. ). In West Germany, the law making it a crime (175b StGB, which also outlawed homosexual acts) was removed in 1969. East Germany before reunification had no law against zoosexual activity; zoosexual pornography, however, was very restricted. Certain barriers are set by the Animal Protection Law (Tierschutzgesetz).
Ghana Illegal. As of 2006 "Unnatural carnal knowledge" is not permitted under the Ghana criminal code. This includes "homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality"
India Section 377 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) makes it illegal for a person to have sexual contact with an Animal. "Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with 1[imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment of either description for term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine." The punishment is tougher than the punishment for rape, however only penetration is considered under this section.
Mexico Legal. (Carl Franz, ''"The People's Guide to Mexico"'', 1988. pg. 398)
Netherlands Illegal, regardless from April 2008. See section 111D of the Netherlands Criminal Code.
New Zealand Illegal, under a variety of sections contained in the Crimes Act 1961. Section 143, makes "bestiality" an offence, but as in Canada, the meaning of bestiality is derived from case law. There are also associated offences of indecency with an animal (section 144) and compelling an indecent act with an animal (section 142A). It is interesting to note that in the 1989 Crimes Bill considered abolishing bestiality as a criminal offence, and for it to be treated as a mental health issue. In Police v Sheary (1991) 7 CRNZ 107 (HC) Fisher J considered that "[t]he community is generally now more tolerant and understanding of unusual sexual practices that do not harm others." According to the recent New Zealand Book of Lists (2007, p59), however, only one offender apiece are currently serving prison sentences under Sections 142A and 144.
Norway Legal. It was formerly illegal, but made legal in 1972 together with making homosexuality legal.
Singapore Illegal. Penal Code Sexual penetration with living animal

377B. -(1) Any person (A) who - (a) penetrates, with A's penis, the vagina, anus or any orifice of an animal; or

(b) causes or permits A's vagina, anus or mouth, as the case may be, to be penetrated by the penis of an animal, shall be guilty of an offence.

(2) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (1) shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine, or with both.

(3) Any person (A) who - (a) causes any man (B) to penetrate, with B's penis, the vagina, anus or any orifice of an animal; or

(b) causes the vagina, anus or mouth, as the case may be, of another person (B) to be penetrated with the penis of an animal,

shall be guilty of an offence if B did not consent to the penetration.

(4) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (3) shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 20 years, and shall also be liable to fine or to caning.

Sweden Legal. It was formerly illegal, but made legal in 1944 together with making homosexuality legal. A 2005 report by the Swedish Animal Welfare Agency for the Swedish government expressed strong concerns over the increase in reports of horse-ripping incidents, although noting that "the rise in documented cases did not necessarily mean that there was a de facto increase", and distinguished zoosexual activity from incidents involving physical injury (zoosadism). The Animal Welfare Agency gave as its opinion that current animal cruelty legislation needed updating as it was not sufficiently protecting animals from abuse, but concluded that on balance it was not appropriate to call for a ban.
Switzerland Legal. As in Germany, pornography involving animals is illegal.
United Kingdom Penetration of or by an animal is illegal, and carries a sentence of up to 2 years imprisonment. Historically an unspecified range of acts were illegal, however the Sexual Offences Act 2003 which followed a major review of all sexual offences in UK law clarified this, removing the ambiguous activities from the scope of the law, and changing the sentence from life imprisonment (which had been criticized as over-harsh) to two years.
United States Laws are determined at the state level. Many U.S. states explicitly outlaw sex with animals (sometimes under the term of "sodomy" or "unnatural crime against nature"). Others do not.

Many U.S. state laws against "sodomy" (generally in the context of heterosexual sodomy, oral sex, anal sex and all homosexual conduct) were repealed or struck down by the courts in Lawrence v. Texas, which ruled that perceived moral disapproval on its own was an insufficient justification for banning a private act. On the other hand, the 2004 conviction of a man in Florida demonstrated that even in states with no specific laws against zoosexual acts, animal cruelty statutes would instead be applied, and Muth v. Frank showed that some courts might be "desperate to avoid the plain consequences" of Lawrence and may make "narrow and strained" efforts to avoid seeing it as relevant to other consensual private acts beyond the realm of homosexuality.

Finally, the 1999 Philip Buble case showed that when a self-confessed zoophile is assaulted and the assault is motivated by his zoophilia (ie hate crime), a jury can convict the assailant and a judge give a stern sentence, despite the controversial nature of the cause.

Zambia Illegal. Penal code Cap 87 Section 115 forbids homosexuality and other "Unnatural Offences" including "carnal knowledge of an animal".ILGA Africa 2000 Report

Pornography laws

Main articles with legal sections: Obscenity, Pornography, Legal status of internet pornography

Animal pornography is governed in the United States by the same Miller test and obscenity laws as any other form of pornography. In many countries such as Canada, Hungary and the Netherlands, such material is legal, although in some countries where zoosexual acts are legal, zoosexual pornography is not (Belgium, Germany, Russia).

Legality of any given pornographic material has three components: legality of production, legality of sale and transportation, and legality of ownership.

In general, animal pornography is legal to produce anywhere that zoosexual activity and the creation of pornography in general are both legal. Laws concerning sale, transmission and ownership vary more widely.

Sale anddistribution Ownership Relevant law/ notes
Belgium Legal Unknown, possibly legal In the same case cited above, the man concerned was fined for "violating public decency legislation" as a result of distributing pornography, implying that distribution is illegal, but was not fined for ownership.
Canada Unknown Legal
Germany Illegal Legal 184 StGB 184 StGB Verbreitung pornographischer Schriften
New Zealand Illegal Illegal s. 3(1) Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993
United States As with all pornography, considered obscene if it does not meet the standards of the Miller Test and therefore is not openly sold, mailed, distributed or imported across state boundaries or within states which prohibit it. Under U.S. law, 'distribution' could include transmission across the internet. However may be some doubt. Usually legal (unless prohibited by state law). Interstate transport or import of pornography even for personal use is technically an offence. various

Erotic art, such as animal pornography in cartoons and the like, which does not require the recording of an actual sexual incident, are not usually considered sex with animals by the law, and so their status depends upon more general laws such as legal limits upon obscenity or pornography alone, and the thin line between erotic art and pornography. The contrasting views between cultures are highlighted by the case of Omaha the Cat Dancer, a furry comic book, which was simultaneously the subject of a raid by Toronto police for pornographic depiction of bestiality, and the subject of praise by the New Zealand Indecent Publications Tribunal which considered that it was "not indecent", for its mature depiction of relationships and sexuality.

Religious laws

''main articles: Zoophilia and religion, Religious law

In certain religions, sex with animals was part of the legal framework of a theocratic state, and as such the matter also falls under religious law. This is particularly the case for Abrahamic religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, although many other religions and traditions such as Hindu, Buddhism and even Satanism have religious views and rules on the matter which did not form part of a national legislative regime.

Historical and other laws

In some countries laws existed against single males living with female animals. For example, an old Peruvian law prohibited single males from keeping a female alpaca in their residence.

Impact of laws

Impact of anti-zoosexuality laws has been in four main areas:

  1. A culture of fear, ignorance or witch-hunting, in which the presence of a law becomes evidence that a group are inherently deserving of a law. (A similar effect was noted in respect of the UK's Section 28 law on homosexuality when passed).
  2. The placing of such people outside the law has led to inhibitions on zoosexuals' ability to report animal abuse (due to unwillingness to come to legal attention as a witness or otherwise), or alternatively increases zoosexuals' vulnerability to blackmail (a proportion are reported by vindictive human ex-partners and the like, or the threat used to obtain advantage).
  3. Reduced ability to determine what, if any, support, counselling or other assistance may be appropriate, or to provide or seek the same openly. (A notable exception is in Germany where zoosexuality is legal, and a telephone based charitable crisis support service similar to Samaritans is available)
  4. The personal impact of living with such fears - of loss of partners, or criminal charges - and the need to maintain secrecy even from loved ones (due to lack of legal protection), is a stressor to zoosexuals and their relationships.
Connected with this, fear of consequences is reported to prevent zoosexuals from seeking clinical advice, for example, by raising zoosexuality or losses connected to it with doctors or therapists. This is similar to the manner in which homosexuals' issues are under reported in countries where homosexuality is punishable.

In one Canadian incident, a person was reported to authorities on the basis of a web page allegedly seen by a close relative on their computer. In fact no substantive evidence of any activity was offered, nor was any testimony of abuse offered, and the charges were withdrawn within a few weeks. By that time, however, the pets in their home had all been seized. One was euthanized (due to its chronic medical condition), while another had been forcibly rehoused and was not returned. The owner, reported to lack means to seek compensation, seems to have received none .

Notable cases

There are many cases of zoosexuality and the law, so only the most notable are related here.


See also

Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

This article is based on "Zoosexuality and the law" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Zoosexuality+and+the+law&action=history