Peter Albert David Singer (né le 6 juillet 1946 à Melbourne en Australie), est un philosophe Australien. Il est professeur de Bioethique à l'université de Princeton où il a été recruté en 1999 (malgré de nombreuses protestations). Il s'est spécialisé dans l'éthique pratique avec un point de vue plutôt utilitariste et athée.
Il est particulièrement connu par son livre Animal liberation largement considéré comme la pierre de touche du mouvement de libération animal. Ses idées sur ce sujet comme d'autres sujets ont particulièrement attiré l'attention et un fort niveau de controverse.
Positions sur la zoophilie
En 2001, ce philosophe utilitariste de la libération animale a publié dans la revue pornographique en ligne Nerve un article sur l'ouvrage de Midas Dekkers, Dearest Pet, On Bestiality. Singer y déclare que des "activités mutuellement satisfaisantes" de nature sexuelle peuvent parfois avoir lieu entre les hommes et les animaux. Singer explique que Dekkers considère que la zoophilie doit restée illégale si elle implique la cruauté, mais que dans le cas contraire, il n'y a pas lieu d'être choqué ou horrifié.
Cependant Singer ne prétend pas endosser les vues de Dekkers ou de Soyka mais plutôt les expliquer. Singer pense que si les rapports sexuels entre les animaux et les humains ne sont pas normaux ou naturels, ils ne constituent pas une transgression de notre statut d'être humain, car les hommes sont des animaux ou plus spécifiquement de grands singes.
Face au torrent de critiques suscitées par sa prise de position, Peter Singer a adressé un email précisant sa position sur différentes listes de discussions de la protection animale. Comme vous pouvez en juger par les extraits qui suivent il y maintien très largement sa position:
"I agreed to review Midas Dekkers’ scholarly study of sexual interaction between humans and animals not because I support such practices, but because I wanted to reflect on what such sexual behavior tells us about the way in which we are like animals, and at the same time to seek to draw such sharp lines between ourselves and other species. I also wanted to suggest that, if our concern is for the welfare of animals, it is only too easy to find practices on every modern factory farm that are a great deal worse, for the animal, than some forms of sexual contact between humans and animals. (Sex, I might remind readers, does not only mean “intercourse.”) An objection to all forms of sexual contact between humans and animals, in other words, does not seem to be based on concern for animal welfare, in any obvious sense. Those who wish to sustain such a sweeping objection need to look for other grounds."
"I thought my review might provoke some people to think about the issue of why some behavior towards animals is viewed as obviously wrong, while other behavior seems entirely acceptable — killing and eating them, for example, or experimenting on them to test the safety of new cleaning agents. Obviously, sexual acts involving violence or cruelty to animals ought to be prohibited. And there may well be good accounts of why the proscription against all sexual acts with animals — including acts that are neither intrinsically violent or cruel — has outlasted many other prohibitions against non-reproductive sexual acts. But very few people seem to have read the article as raising questions. Many seemed to see no more than the fact that it mentioned sex with animals, and that fact was enough to send them into hysterical abuse, including accusations that I myself was a “zoophile.”"
Critiques de Peter Singer
Plusieurs religieux et groupes de défense des animaux ont condamnés cette prise de position. Tandis que l'organisation de défense des animaux PeTA, par l'intermédiaire de sa présidente Ingrid Newkirk a exprimé un soutien prudent avant de se rétracter face au tollé engendré par sa position.
Les positions de Singer sont généralement critiquées pour un certain relativisme moral. Ainsi son positionnement utilitariste l'a conduit à adopter des positions douteuses à l'égard des enfants handicapés. Il est accusé de justifier infanticide et l'euthanasie dans certains cas.
Extraits de critique par les militants de la cause animale
Friends of Animals president Priscillia Feral wrote,
"Friends of Animals, an interntional non-profit organization with 200,000 members throughout the world dedicated to promoting the rights of animals and concern for wildlife and the environment, denounces Princeton philosophy professor Peter Singer, for an essay in which Singer maintains that under some circumstances, it is acceptable for humans and animals to have sex with each other. FoA finds Singer’s position shocking and disgusting. Bestiality is wrong in part because the animal cannot meaningfully consent to sex with a human. In this sense, bestiality is wrong for the same reason pedophilia is wrong. Children cannot consent to sexual contact and neither can animals. Contrary to a statement from a spokesperson for PETA, Singer’s essay isn’t an intellectual issue, and his thinking isn’t logical. It’s a moral issue. Singer and his apologists just need to stop repeating every annoying idea they’ve developed for shock value."
Megan Metzellar, program coordinator for Friends of Animals weighed in as well,
"Singer is basically condoning rape and molestation as long as one (presumably he?) can find a way to interpret the situation as being “mutually satisfying.” I suppose Mr. Singer can find a way to justify any base behavior in his mind via his meaningless hypotheticals. Singer has been put on a pedestal by the animal rights movement for a very long time but this essay is a wake-up call to those who have blindly idolized him. Moreover, since women are often sexually abused and exploited in conjunction with acts of bestiality, feminists should be outraged by his position on this issue. Child advocates should also be alarmed since Singer is condoning sex acts in which one party is basically incapable of giving consent. Singer is in dangerous territory here and if he has any sense left he will realize the potential fallout from this essay and retract his position."
Theodora Capaldo, president of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, was worried about the damage that Singer’s views will have on the animal rights movement.
"As someone who has played and continues to play a high profile and influential role in the animal rights movement, I believe your responsibility changes. The success of animal liberation depends not only on the ideology, the legal arguments, and the philosophical reasoning but perhaps more importantly on the sophisticated strategies that will allow mainstream populations to hear the message, accept the message and act on the message. Heavy Petting will come back to haunt us and is a step backwards. Unchallenged, this essay will serve to further marginalize and, therefore, damage the animal rights movement. The consequences of it will push us back into the bubble-gum bottomed recess of prejudice that hell hole of ridicule that remains our greatest obstacle and enemy. Some people may care about your thoughts on bestiality from some perverse unconscious desires. More significantly, however, many others will study your every word not to better ground their arguments in support of animal rights but rather to find new ways to discredit our efforts. They have been given new ammunition and new accusations with which to boost their arguments about the absurdity of our beliefs. Heavy Petting will be used against us. Have no doubt."
Gary Francione, who seems to have laid low after shutting down his animal law center, reminded animal rights activists that Singer’s argument is beside the point since the existence of pets is an abomination itself, regardless of whether or not anyone is having sex with the animals.
"Even if animals can desire to have sexual contact with humans, that does not mean that they are “consenting” to that contact any more than does a child who can have sexual desires (or who even initiates sexual contact) can be said to consent to sex. Moreover, Peter ignores completely that bestiality is a phenomenon that occurs largely within the unnatural relationship of domestication; a domestic animal can no more consent to sex than could a human slave. Therefore, since the threshold requirement–informed consent–cannot be met, sexual contact with animals cannot be morally justified….It is bad enough that Peter defends the killing or other exploitation of those humans whose lives he regards as not worth living, and, through his pop media image, he has succeeded in connecting the issue of animal rights with the very ideas that were promoted by some academics as part of the theoretical basis for Nazism. It is bad enough that the “father of the animal rights movement” regards PETA’s sell-out liaison with McDonalds as “the biggest step forward for farm animals in America in the past quarter of a century” (a direct quote from Peter) and that PETAphiles are pointing to Peter’s approval as justification for the sell-out. It is bad enough that Peter continues to support and promote those whose unethical actions have actually harmed animals. Bestiality merits nothing more or less than our outright and unequivocal condemnation. Peter’s disturbing view that humans and nonhumans may enjoy sexual contact as part of “mutually satisfying activities” will only further harm the cause of animal rights, and I can only hope that those who care will register their strong dissent."
- Peter Singer’s Last Word on the Bestiality Controversy
- BLOOM Moly, "Church group to protest Singer and homosexuals", The Daily Princetonian, 18 mai 2001.
- Animal Rights Activist Attack Peter Singer Over Bestiality Stance
- Heavy petting/amours bestiales, le texte de Peter Singer en question
- [Vidéo de l'interview de Peter Singer sur la question de la zoophilie dans The Colbert Report, 11 décembre 2006] (vers 2mn30)
- Lyncher pour ne pas être lynché ? Réflexions sur les réactions suscitées par « Heavy Petting » de Singer
- Contre la zoophilie texte de Tom Regan (avril 2001) en réaction aux positions de Peter Singer en matière de zoophilie
- Re Bestiality, lettre de Karen Davis au sujet du texte de Peter Singer
- Peter Singer's 'Heavy Petting' article en réponse aux positions de Peter Singer par Laura Vanderkam