Bestiality is to be banned in Germany in a reversal of a 1969 decision which made it legal. Animal welfare advocates are praising the decision to outlaw such abuse of animals — also known as zoophilia — while contending that the focus on this issue has diverted attention from other urgent animal rights concerns.
Ilse Aigner, the German agriculture minister, is calling for a reversal of the 1969 decision on the grounds that bestiality is an “offence not only to hurt an animal but also to force it into unnatural sex,” according to the BBC. Animals should not be used “for personal sexual activities or made available to third parties for sexual activities … thereby forcing them to behave in ways that are inappropriate to their species,” says Hans-Michael Goldmann, chairman of a parliamentary committee that is discussing the measure before the Bundestag votes on it on December 14.
Under the new measure, anyone found guilty of forcing an animal into “actions alien to the species” could face a fine of 25,000 euros (about $32,300).
Michael Kiok, a librarian who is chairman of a group called the Zoophile Engagement for Tolerance and Information (Zeta), says that he plans to take legal action against the changes. “When I look at my dog I know immediately what it wants. Animals are much easier to understand than women,” says Kiok in the Guardian — statements that are (to totally understate the matter) beyond disturbing.
The topic of animal bestiality is a “tough one for people to hear and deal with,” as Care2 blogger Megan Drake writes. But it is one that we need to not only be aware of, but to take action about. As Megan points out, only 17 states in the U.S. have laws under which bestiality is a felony; fourteen more states say it is a misdemeanor. The rest do not consider bestiality a crime against animals, though some consider it a misdemeanor if a minor child or pornography is involved.
In Europe, a number of countries (including the Netherlands, France and Switzerland) ban bestiality. Prior to 2003, bestiality carried a sentence of life imprisonment in the U.K.; this has been reduced to two years. Bestiality remains legal in Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, though Sweden is considering changing this.
Animal rights advocates in Germany have put forward many other issues that must be attended to and very soon. They are seeking bans on castrating piglets and cutting off their tails and on branding horses without anesthesia. Only the castration issue has been addressed and not in a satisfactory way. According to the Guardian, after 2018 (i.e., not exactly in the very near future) it can only be carried out under a local anesthetic.
While the ban on bestiality is more than — does it need to be said? – necessary, there is clearly far more the German government, not to mention several states in the U.S. and some European nations, can do to protect animals from cruel and horrendous abuse. How we humans treat and care for all creatures great and small says a lot about us.
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