Zoophilia: an eye-opener to understandings of animal welfare, animal integrity and human-animal relations

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ADAMS Judith Clair, McBRIDE Anne, CARR Alison, "Human animal sexual interactions: a predictive model to differentiate between zoophilia, zoosexuality and bestiality", 11th International Conference on Human-Animal Interractions, Tokyo 2007, poster 40

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Poster-25 (Poster briefing Oct. 6th - 8th 11:30 - 12:00)

Zoophilia: an eye-opener to understandings of animal welfare, animal integrity and human-animal relations

Stine B. Christiansen, Peter Sandoe

Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Many concerns have been raised about humans having sexual relations with animals. Recently, it has been discussed in several countries to make this practice illegal. Indeed, certain activities of this kind may cause animal suffering. However, some sexual activities are unlikely to cause harm and based on current knowledge about animal sexuality it may be reasonably assumed that some even involve a positive experience for the animals involved. Presently no research seems to contradict this assumption. The focus of this presentation is to explore the challenges which negative reactions to zoophilia, even when expressed in non-harmful sexual relations, present in relation to understandings of animal welfare, respect for animals and human-animal relations.

Viewed in the light of general developments to improve animal welfare the complete rejection of sexual relations with animals seems paradoxical. A key idea in improving conditions for animals in human care is to allow them to express normal behaviours, one of which could be sexual behaviour. That a behaviour is performed with a human rather than a member of the same species seems to be irrelevant in the context of many other human-animal activities. And even if the activity requires some training of the animal, this too seems acceptable in other situations as long as the training method itself is not causing a welfare problem. Furthermore, the fact that some forms of a practise hold a risk for animal welfare or may even be considered a form of abuse seems in other circumstances an insufficient ground for a total rejection of all related activities. Why then, is it not acceptable e.g. for the owner of a male dog to allow the dog to mount him or her?

Answering this question challenges common understandings concerning animals in several ways. This may have implications for the perception of what behaviours animals should be allowed to perform, what it means to treat animals with respect, and what roles animals should play in the lives of humans. Many commonly accepted beliefs and practises might require some explanation and justification if the same rigour of arguments is being called for in discussions about the general keeping and use of animals as in critical discussions about zoophilia.

Thus, reflecting on arguments relating to zoophilia may at the end of the day pose a challenge to the general acceptability of keeping and use of animals. Usually hidden conflicts regarding different views of animals themselves and acceptable practises concerning animals are made transparent. Such conflicts may be acknowledged and accepted as an inherent part of the diversity of human- animal relationships. Or they may warrant further reflection to obtain a consistency of thought. In the latter case, one may on pain of inconsistency have to face the dilemma of either questioning some common practises of animal keeping or accepting certain human sexual activities involving animals.

Source

11th Conference on Human-Animal Interactions, Poster session, p. 154