Instigator / Pro

Bestiality should not be illegal in all cases


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With 1 vote and 5 points ahead, the winner is ...

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Bestiality - Sexual intercourse between a human and a non-human animal

R1. Pro's case; Con's Case
R2. Pro Rebuttal; Con Rebuttal
R3. Pro Rebuttal & Summary ; Con Rebuttal & Summary

Round 1
Since the debate resolution clarifies that bestiality should be not be illegal in all cases, Pro wins by providing at least one case in which bestiality should not be illegal.
Contention 1 – Argument from consent
If the sole reason why bestiality should be illegal is a lack of consent, then bestiality should be legal in all instances in which an animal can consent.
Research into great ape language has revealed that certain species such as gorillas can acquire sign language and use this to both request actions and answer questions [1]. The female gorilla ‘Koko’ for instance requested babies using sign language and was later given kittens as compensation [2], hence surely if an animal can explicitly communicate using language to this degree of complexity, this could be used to request intercourse or give consent by accepting intercourse. Therefore, in at least some cases bestiality should be legal as animal can consent. Furthermore, unless a male dog mounts a human female, it would be very difficult for engage in intercourse with a dog since these only engage in ‘doggy style’ intercourse without the opportunity of woman on top. Hence, while animals such as dogs could not explicitly communicate consent using language, initiating the sex themselves implies consent, and hence provides a further, more general, example of animal’s ability to consent to sexual intercourse with humans. A 2006 Danish Animal Ethics Council report further outlined that a) animals can give consent both through initiation of intercourse, as well as lack of protest (any pet owner will know that if their pet is not in the mood to be touched, it will simply walk away or possibly even growl and attack), b) bestiality can provide a pleasurable experience for both the human as well as the animal, which is further supported by the existence of homosexual relationships in most mammal species [3] that show that reproduction is not the sole role of sexual intercourse, and c) some non-human animals, among them dogs, show sexually attraction toward humans [4].
In conclusion, great apes that possess language abilities provide the clearest example of animals being able to give consent, however, male dogs mounting female humans are also a clear example of consent, while intercourse between male men and animals can still involve implied consent due to lack of protest by the animals.
Contention 2 – Lack of necessity
A law without a purpose would be futile, if beyond an appeal to consistency, the only other appeal is to possible harm to the animal, then a law against bestiality would be futile and should hence not exist. Denmark’s Animal Ethics Council opposed the introduction of an anti-bestiality law in Denmark in 2015 as “existing laws which allow bestiality except in cases where the animal can be proved to have suffered were enough” [4]. Similarly, in the United States, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 already establishes that “A person commits an offence if an act of his, or a failure of his to act, causes an animal to suffer” [5], hence explicitly criminalising bestiality would be futile as harm to the animal is already illegal. Therefore, bestiality should not be illegal as there are already laws in place that prevent harm to the animals.
Furthermore, based on John Stuart Mill’s harm principle: “That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” [6] Peter Singer has argued that bestiality is not unethical as long as it does not involve harm to the animal, and that the stigma associated with it is merely due to irrational speciesism [7]. In 1957, the Wolfenden Report cited the harm-principle as one of the primary arguments for legalising homosexual acts in the United Kingdom, which led to the 1967 Sexual Offences Acts in which homosexual acts have been legalised. Similarly, bestiality should be legalised as long as no harm comes to any external party and hence bestiality should not be illegal in all cases.


In conclusion, neither an appeal to consent, nor an appeal to harm can justify the illegality of bestiality. An appeal to consent fails due to the explicit consent by great apes, implicit consent through intercourse initiation by animals and implicit consent through lack of protest by animals, which generally protest when uncomfortable such as dogs. An appeal to harm, on the other hand, fails due to harm to animals already being illegal and a bestiality law hence being futile, and possible discomfort to external parties not justifying the law as this would also affect homosexual acts.
Your arguments basically approach this from the animal side-- can the animal provide consent, is there harm to the animal, etc.  Of the two parties involved, the animal and the human, primary importance should be given to the Human.  

Consent = in simplest terms, "voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another"
Pleasure = in simplest terms, a feeling happy satisfaction or enjoyment.
Selfish = an act that is concerned with the self only
Selfless = an act that is concerned not only with the self.

You submit much information and assume these to be "facts".  The "jury is still out" on many of your assumed facts, such as the existence of homosexual relationships in other animals.  Nonetheless, even if it were proven to be true, just because we see behavior exhibited in animals doesn't necessarily mean that same behavior should be accepted in the human species.  Animals defecate on streets and sidewalks.  The City of San Francisco notwithstanding, we would all agree that this behavior is not acceptable with humans.  So 

Contention 1 -  the Koko and dog examples are fine and dandy, but just because an animal is able to use certain gestures, you can not be 100% sure that this is "consent", i.e. a voluntary response on the part of the animal to agree to the proposal or desire of the other..  The animal could still be operating out of "instinct", which is not voluntary.  

    1)  Koko requesting Babies.  I would not consider that an example of consent.  My dog has been trained to ring a bell on the door when he wants to go outside.  He nudge his nose at the bell when he wants to go outside because he equates the sound of a bell with going outside and chasing squirrels.  Thus, whenever he hears another bell he rushes to the door.  His behavior is more out of conditioning.  Is Koko's behavior similar?  
    2)  a) When the animal is "communicating" this way, is it responding to  what's it been conditioned to or is it truly exhibiting a voluntary desire (i.e. not condition or instinct).  I've seen dogs initiate intercourse with an embarrassed person's leg-- is that dog initiating consent (voluntary) or is it just responding by instinct to conditions within it's body and knows no other way  but to hump what's alive nearby?
    b)  You are assuming it's "pleasurable" for the animal
   3)  c)  THis is a very important.  EVERY action has an objective, and some may have primary and secondary objectives.  What are the objectives of Sexual Intercourse?  Primary Objective is the propagation of the species.  Secondary objective is the unification and pleasure of the members.  When both the Primary and Secondary objectives are present, sexual intercourse is a selfless act-- when you open the sexual act to bringing a new member of the species, it is a self-less act.  When you engage in sexual activity strictly for self-pleasure, it turns it into a selfish act.  The habitual engagement in selfish acts, no matter what they are, is not good for a human society, a society in which members must work together for the betterment of each other and the society at large.  Habitual selfishness is not healthy.  
   4)  So?  Just because an animal wants to do something with a human is not good enough reason for that act to be "legal".  Some dogs want to maul humans-- should that be legal too?

Contention 2 - the only possible appeal is harm to the animal?  Um, no.  Sorry.  You are making a huge assumption that having intercourse with a beast (animal) is healthy and would do no harm to the person.  I would argue it's unhealthy, much like having sex with a tennis racket, a coke can, a machete, or any in other non-human object is unhealthy.  Bestiality promotes/fosters "selfishness within the individual".  Selfish is not healthy.  Bestiality sets a bad example for other members of the Human Society (this is the "harm to others" part).  Then there is just the flat-out physical harm that can occur with such acts.  

The problem with Singer et al is that they fail to see the harm to others (Setting bad example, etc).  To take Mill (and Singer's) philosophy a step further, one has to answer the questions, does the ACT (any act) impose harm to others, not just physical harm?  I would argue, why is this speciesism "irrational", as Singer points out? 

Round 2
Firstly I would like to point out that as per the debate structure, Con had to make a case in Round 1 and was not supposed to rebut until Round 2, however, he presented no case.

“The "jury is still out" on many of your assumed facts, such as the existence of homosexual relationships in other animals”
I have not assumed this, in fact I have cited Bagemihl (2000) in support of this in Round 1 who has outlined that: “Homosexuality in its myriad forms has been scientifically documented in more than 450 species...”, hence homosexuality is clearly much more than “an assumed fact” and the jury is very much decided.

My opponent strawmans my homosexuality argument, he claims that I have asserted that homosexual behavior in animals means that it should also be accepted in humans. I have merely outlined that the existence of homosexual relationships in animals “show that reproduction is not the sole role of sexual intercourse” (Round 1), which it does and is entirely unaffected by Cons assertion as I derive no normative statement from this but merely use it to support a premise.

“The animal could still be operating out of "instinct", which is not voluntary.”

My opponent uses this to counter the Koko example and a similar “is that dog initiating consent (voluntary) or is it just responding by instinct” argument to counter the dogs.

In the case of Koko, the study I have cited in Round 1 outlined that “Koko also showed that she could interact effectively with other language-users and that she could invent gestures to facilitate her communication.”, the fact that Koko herself invented new gestures shows higher comprehension of the gestures than mere “instinct” or a trained response. In the case of dogs initiating intercourse, my opponent claims that the initiation could be involuntary. However, involuntary actions are defined by Wikipedia as “nearly instantaneous movement in response to a stimulus”, initiation of sexual intercourse on the other hand is highly goal-directed (toward pleasure) behaviour that requires several steps and several minutes until the goal (orgasm) has been achieved, it must hence be a voluntary action.

My opponent makes a further minor claim that “you’re assuming its pleasurable for the animal”, I have supported this with a 2006 Danish Animal Ethics Council report as well in Round 1, hence it is not merely an assumption. Furthermore, writes “Not only do animals enjoy the deed, they also likely have orgasms, he said. They are difficult to measure directly but by watching facial expressions, body movements and muscle relaxation, many scientists have concluded that animals reach a pleasurable climax, he said.”, hence it is a well-supported claim, not merely an assumption, that sexual intercourse is pleasurable for animals.

Con goes on to argue that “habitual selfishness is not healthy” and that engaging in sexual activity “strictly for self-pleasure” is an example of selfishness. Firstly, not all zoosexual activity is based on pleasure, News24 reports the case of a man who divorced his wife due to being in love with his dog "It is amazing, but this husband is not crazy. It seems he is a passionate human being who looked at a dog, and the more he looked, the more passionate he became."[1], while this is certainly not a typical case, it shows that in at least some cases much more than pleasure is involved. Furthermore, Con’s argument can be carried to absurdity. If selfish acts ought to be illegal for the sake of protecting either society or the person’s health, then acts such as masturbation, binge eating, and pornography to name a few ought also to be illegal due to their potential of being “habitually selfish”. This is absurd and unfeasible for any justice system as it would become unenforceable due to the sheer magnitude of 'offences'

Con’s final claim is that “You are making a huge assumption that having intercourse with a beast (animal) is healthy and would do no harm to the person.” This is a further misrepresentation of my case, I have specifically cited Mill’s harm-principle which includes “His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” which clarifies that my case does not rely on no harm being caused to the person themselves. The law ought not to be concerned with acts that involve no harm to anyone other than the parties that are willingly involved, Mill wrote that every person is the best judge of what will make them happy, who are we to force our view of what will make them happy on them in the absence of harm to others?

To conclude; Con has unsuccessfully attacked my case by arguing that 1) animals do not voluntarily consent, 2) animals do not enjoy bestiality and 3) bestiality harms the person engaging in it. These contentions have been addressed above and to fulfil his BoP, Con will have to present his case why bestiality should be illegal. We can debate whether bestiality can involve consent, but unless Con outlines why this is relevant for his case neither position supports his view.

Bestiality is not natural to humans.  It's not.,  Sorry.  I challenge you to argue that it is. 

That's the primary reason for making it and keeping it illegal. 

Before you continue with your Bagehimian Rhapsody (See what I did there?), suffice it to say that although homosexual behavior is very common in the animal world, it seems to be very uncommon that individual animals have a long-lasting predisposition to engage in such behavior to the exclusion of heterosexual activities. Thus, a homosexual orientation, if one can speak of such thing in animals, seems to be a rarity.  So called homosexual relationships in other animals does not prove sexual intercourse has another purpose.  It, at best, highlights the fact that animals operate out of instinct and urges and do not have the capability to keep those urges in check.

You argue that my claims can be carried to absurdity.  Likewise the claim or argument that bestiality should be legal can also be carried to absurdity. 

But alas, suffice it to say this.  Bestiality is not normal and does harm to the human person.

1)  You have not proven that animals can, and do, provide consent.  You've only taken observed behaviors and extrapolated those to mean they imply consent.  And you have not ruled out acting on instinct.  
2)  Your claim does indeed imply that animals find pleasure in sex, but again, you are assuming they would find pleasure in having sex with humans.  
3)  There is a specific purpose to sex:  the propagation of the species.  That is the primary purpose.  
4)  Your claim "The law ought not to be concerned with acts that involve no harm to anyone other than the parties that are willingly involved, Mill wrote that every person is the best judge of what will make them happy, who are we to force our view of what will make them happy on them in the absence of harm to others?".  No, sorry.  Not buying it .  Often times people are incapable of doing what is right, even if they KNOW they should.  Addicts harm themselves because are simply unable to stop.  Yes, it makes them happy .  Should the law then be changed just because addicts "think they are happy?"  Nope.  
5)  a human having sex with a non-human is not healthy.  Replacing a  healthy sexual encounter with a  non-healthy sexual encounter sets a bad example to others.

Round 3
My R2 acts as my R3, and this R3 as my rebuttal of Con's case as he did not present it until R2.

Rebuttal of Con's case:

“Bestiality is not natural to humans.  It's not.,  Sorry.  I challenge you to argue that it is.  
That's the primary reason for making it and keeping it illegal.” - Con, Round 2
My opponent asserts that as bestiality is not natural to humans, it should be illegal. There are three issues with this position:

a) My opponent never explains why an act being unnatural implies it should be illegal, there simply is no connection between the two, hence my opponent’s argument is a non-sequitur, it simply does not follow that bestiality should be illegal simply because it is unnatural. Processed food is unnatural, surely that does not imply it should be illegal, engaging with technology is unnatural, however Con seems to have no issue with using modern technology. An act being unnatural does not imply it is bad or should be illegal.
b) Inter-species sex has been found to be natural in many species such as monkeys and deer [1], in fact, over 90 species have been identified by a 2008 literature review that did engage or attempted to engage in inter-species sex [2]. My opponent claims that it is “not natural to humans”, without backing this assertion up with any evidence. As many other mammal species that are closely related to humans engage in inter-species sex, there seems to be no reason to assume that humans are the exception. In fact, there are depictions of bestiality from the palaeolithic period [3] suggesting that bestiality is not a new phenomenon, followed by many further depictions during the Neolithic era [4]. Con has provided no evidence that bestiality is unnatural and in light of the common inter-species sex in other species and the long history of bestiality in humans, there seems to be no basis for assuming that it is.
c) Even if a) were overcome, and there was some legitimate reason why an act being unnatural implies that it should be illegal and b) were overcome to show that bestiality is indeed unnatural, this would not be a feasible or desirable criterion of illegality. Between 3.5% (females) and 8% (males) have reported having engaged in bestiality at least once, “Among men living in rural areas, the figure shot up to 50 percent.” [5] it would not be feasible to lock up between 3.5% and 8% of the population. Additionally, my opponent seems to believe that homosexual intercourse in humans is unnatural (inferred from his claims that “the jury is still out” in R2), which would doom a further 4.5% of Americans to criminal penalties [6]. Hence, due to the sheer number of ‘unnatural’ activities of humans in contemporary societies, it is neither a feasible nor an adequate standard of determining illegality.

To conclude, my opponent's case is based on bestiality being unnatural. I have shown in a) that it does not follow that an act being unnatural implies it should be illegal citing examples such as modern technology. In b) I have shown that even if a) were false, bestiality is more likely to be natural, rather than unnatural, in humans due to many other mammals similarly engaging in inter-species sex and the long history of bestiality in humans, and hence would not be affected by Con's criterion of legality. Finally, I have shown that even if both a) and b) were false, it would be unfeasible to implement Con's criterion of illegality both due to the commonness of bestiality itself and that of other unnatural behaviours such as the consumption of processed foods, rather than traditional palaeolithic foods. Hence, Con's case is neither sound (a), nor would it apply to bestiality (b), nor could it be implemented if it did apply to bestiality (c), hence his case falls to pieces and Con has outlined no further reason, other than it being 'selfish due to seeking pleasure' which has been addressed in my Round 2, why bestiality should be illegal and will not be able to do so in his final round as I would not be able to address this, hence Con failed to show that bestiality should be illegal in all cases.

Short defence of Round 2:
My opponent puts forward the primary contention that animals gain no pleasure from bestiality.
Firstly he asserts that homosexual animal relationships are merely superficial without backing this up with any evidence. This assertion is contradicted by ecological studies, 25% of black swans, for instance, are primarily homosexual and perform parenting duties together and also perform pre-marital rituals and greeting ceremonies, suggesting that it is not just 'urges' as Con claims. Con concedes that animals gain pleasure through sexual intercourse as well, but presumes that this would be different during bestiality, however, I have cited an article in R1 that shows that "bestiality can provide a pleasurable experience for both", contradicting his presumption that he did not back up with any evidence. Con's 4) and 5) have been addressed in the final two paragraphs of my R2.

1 - Animals can not make an informed decision.
2 - Just because an act occurs or is observed in the ANimal Kingdom is not justification for that behavior by humans.  

a)- I strike your response (a) from the list.  Having sex with an animal is not comparable with processing food.  There is a distinction, so to ask the question "Well, why not ban other non-natural acts" is a distraction.  Processed food provides a benefit to the person (sustains life) and society.  Bestiality does no such thing, other than provide temporal pleasure.  

b - I strike this response (b) from the list.  You cite instances of animals engaging in inter-species sex.  I refer you back to my points (1) and (2) above.  Also, my earlier stance of just because we see something occurring in the animal kingdom is not justification for the same behavior in the Human world.  Some animals kill their young, they defecate anywhere, etc.  We are above the animals.  Any reference to activity occurring in the animal kingdom is not justification for that same activity in the human world.

c) - Whether or not a society can handle the incarceration of criminals should not be a reason for whether or not an act should be legal or illegal.  An act should be legal or illegal based on the act's impact to the individual and/or society, not based on whether or not the society can handle the consequences of it being illegal or not.

d)  One report or study is not confirmation that animals derive pleasure from sex with humans.  Furthermore, do not confuse "physical response" with pleasure.  A person masturbating a horse might cause the horse to ejaculate.  Just because this physical response occurs, doesn't necessarily equate to "pleasure".  Who knows, maybe the horse feels regret and remorse after such an encounter?  Of course, this all PRESUMES that animals have "feelings" as humans do.

Finally, I can challenge the claim that animals do not derive pleasure without providing evidence.  It's not necessary for me to.  You made the claim they do, and I challenged your arguments for that.  Implying that I did not back up with evidence my presumption of no pleasure is irrelevant.  That's akin to saying "You need to provide evidence they don't derive pleasure".  No.  NO I don't.  You made the claim they do, and I challenged that claim and your arguments.