A Response to Animal Amicus

Last week, some new voices weighed in on the topic of bestiality. At least, their voices weighing in was new to us here at the magazine. David Rosengard and Nicole Pallotta, two legal experts involved in animal rights advocacy, recently released a podcast episode on the topic of the laws surrounding bestiality, under the banner of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, or as their podcast specifically is called, Animal Amicus. But, before we get into that, I would like to tell you some important details about how I experienced it, as a zoophile who has practiced bestiality before.
It was just a few days ago. I had gone out on a trip to a field to play catch with a couple of dogs. We all loaded up into the car, and chatted on the way as they sniffed out of their windows or peered over my shoulder to look down the road alongside me. This field is quite a ways out of town, part of some park that doesn't get very much traffic unless there's an event going on at the pavilion, which there wasn't on that day. Me and the dogs had the place to ourselves, and the both of them had a great time chasing after a tennis ball together—well, after a while, one of them stayed interested in chasing the ball again and again, while the other split off to go sniff around at the edge of the trees, around some taller grass. I kept an eye on both of them, glad to see them wagging, glad to be getting out with them.
As we were playing though, I'll admit, my mind wasn't solely on them. I was thinking a lot about my last dog. The one who was in my life before them. I was thinking about how much I miss him. The two dogs who I went out to the park with that day were great, don't get me wrong. One of them, a herding breed, loves to do trick training: she looks to me to be told to get in the car ("Mount Up!") or get out of the car ("Dismount!"), she waits for a moment before chasing the ball to check if I'm going to tell her to stay, and she knows the difference between the words "Distance" and "Toss" when I'm about to throw, even if I pretend to have the posture like I'm about to do the opposite one. The other dog out there with me is a bit of an older lady, and she's pretty happy to have a toy more-so than actually play around with it; often when she comes around a corner, you'll see one of her three favorites there in her mouth, and when she lies down she likes to keep one or two with her. The two of them are good dogs. I'm glad to take care of them. I was glad to get to be out there with them that day. But, the relationship I have with them isn't the same as the relationship I had with the dog before them, and I would be lying if I said it hasn't made me appreciate how amazing that last relationship was all the more, even for the empty hurt of the fact that I can only now appreciate something that I wish was still here.
My old partner was a cuddle bug. Whenever I was lying down reading a book, he would come up and lie down right next to me, and soon I would often have the company of a cozy snoring dog right there beside me as I was getting lost (again) in the pages of Jordan and Pratchett. If I was sitting on the couch playing a video game, he would come up and lay down beside me, and I would play the video game worse because I didn't want to be too jarring with the button presses on the side of the controller that he was on, lest my jostling arm bother him; I had no hard feelings about any matches it cost me, especially now. If I was typing at my desk, he would lay down on the big comfy chair nearby, or rest his chin on my foot. Even today, I can feel the shape and weight of his jawbone resting there on top of my foot if I think about it, his head so relaxed.
But he wasn't lazy, either. He loved to go on walks, and he would bully me into doing it every morning when we got up, several times throughout the day, and usually before we went to bed at night. We would walk for miles on the nighttime walks. I have always been someone who walks. Before him, I went on walks alone. During our time together, he and I went on walks together. Now, I go on walks alone again: these other two dogs aren't interested in long walks. Whether out as a group or trying it with just one or the other of them, I'm lucky if we've gotten to the end of the street before they look at me or bite their leash, and basically assert that it's well past time we got back home now; they don't know the miles of trails and scents they're missing out on.
Obviously, we've found other interests for them. Going out to the field, playing fetch. The fetch is nice. It's just not as much my kind of thing as the walks were. Maybe eventually this will grow on me, and I will love it just as much as I did the walks—I'm certainly not complaining about playing fetch, getting some air. But, it was on my mind, how much I miss those walks with him, how much I miss my cuddle bug.
Besides cuddling, the last dog also wasn't shy about his enjoyment of other kinds of physical intimacy. He loved to kiss, leaning in to me and licking my lips, licking the inside of my mouth, and wagging at the intimacy of getting to stick his tongue in his favorite human's face. He liked to get handjobs: often times he asked about it when I was in the kitchen, maybe it made me an easy target because I was just standing around there putting away some dishes or doing some cooking, but he would scratch at my leg, grab me—you might not know how good dogs are at grabbing until one has grabbed you with intimate intents, pulling you to where they want you. He would grab at me and take my hand. Make no mistake, he wanted the handjob and not just something to hump, as he would get very vocally grumbly if I just left my hand limp there when he grabbed it, if I did not make the needed ring with my fingers for his thing to go into, if I did not get his sheath to slide back from his penis as he made his first few humps, if I did not securely hold him behind his knot to simulate a mission accomplished during the rest of his humps until he stopped and dismounted me.
I've actually heard similar stories from more zoophiles than you might guess—well, I don't know how many you would guess, but I can think of four who have talked about something like this. About dogs who don't seem to have any luck actually landing their penis inside of an orifice of their human partner, but who appreciate a handie. It is, in fairness, a lot easier to be of assistance to them when you're using a hand, easier to make sure it's held at an appropriate height for them, easier to help make sure that their sheath slides back smoothly over their knot in time. No complaints about a partner who knows what they want.
So, we would do that a lot, me and him, basically whenever he asked and there wasn't company over.
He was smart: he came to understand that lame guest humans being over meant I wasn't in the mood.
The two lady canines who I was out playing fetch with in the field don't have any sexual interests, in me or in other dogs. They were both spayed early in life, and it's understandable how that would be a bit of a mood killer, to put it lightly. So, we don't do anything like that. There is no sex life between me and either of them.
Me and the last dog would converse in plain English. We had tried some trick training at one point, commands like this other dog I'm now playing fetch with loves, but that last dog, no, he wasn't into it. If you gave him a command he looked at you like you were being a demanding jerk, like, "What's wrong with you? I don't see you talking to anyone else in the room that way, asshole." But if you said to him in natural English, "Let's stay on the other side of the sidewalk," "Wanna cross the road?" "I think we should leave that alone," he would often be moved and agree with your suggestion.
As me and the two lady dogs were all back in the car and driving back home from the field, I was brainstorming things I might want to write for this magazine, Zooey Dot Pub, which I am a regular writer for. Thinking of what ideas about zoosexuality we haven't covered yet. I found myself thinking, again, how I think we still haven't done a standalone, definitive article laying out all of the reasons why we think animals can consent. I'm sure I've started one before, but it's a big topic, and, as the old adage goes, "You can't reason someone out of a position that they didn't reason themselves into." In other words, trying to explain to someone how a dog can tell you things, how some dogs get horny sometimes, and how some dogs are totally good and enthusiastic to get some human hand action, you kind of just have to step back and ask how someone has even gotten to the other conclusion to begin with, and how you're going to help each kind of bestiality hater confront their own flavor of damage that has lead them so far astray, rather than being able to lay out "the one argument" to prove the possibility of ethical bestiality. It feels like over explaining the obvious when you have to painstakingly break down something that to you is just natural and so clearly mutually fun and non-harmful, that the rhetoric you hear levied against it is actually a little bit funny sometimes. Explaining how bestiality can be consensual feels like explaining to someone that a piano can be used to play musical notes.
Besides the magazine, I was also thinking about the zoophile podcasts I've been listening to. Zooier Than Thou, which is a very well produced show that has been doing some banger episodes lately, and Zoo & Me which is very conversational and fun to have on while cooking. I was thinking of all of the enormous zoo group chats that exist, and how, even if I tend to stick to very small ones myself, like the magazine's editing room group, I think it's so cool that people are given these spaces to be open about being zoos around other zoos. In a society that makes us feel we have to keep that part of ourselves a secret, it's a psychological burden lifted to have friends who are cool with it or are also zoos themselves. Lately, besides thinking about missing my old partner, I have also been thinking about how much healthier of a place the zoo community is now as compared to ten years ago. How, if you're someone who finds out that you have an attraction to animals, you have other options than feeling like you have to hide forever. And that's not a small number of people who do have an attraction to animals: maybe over 50% in rural communities who have regular access to animals, although that number is very doubtful, but, maybe 7%, maybe 1%. One out of one hundred people is still quite a lot of people. I'm glad for these people, my people, that we can have these dialogues to better our mental health, that we can have these community projects to laugh at and find meaning in and enjoy, podcasts, articles, stories, poems, songs, conversations.
These are the kinds of things that had been on my mind, and the kinds of things that I had been up to, when it came to the attention of the Zooey Dot Pub editing room that some animal rights group had released a podcast episode on the the laws surrounding bestiality. The episode had actually flown by under the radar, unseen by anyone I know of in the zoo community, until after it had been out for a few days. Nobody who I asked about it seemed to have had any prior impression of this specific animal rights group at all, the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
With our interests piqued, me (Alissa) and Tarro (the project lead of Zooey Dot Pub) listened to the episode more or less at the same time, and the editing room became ablaze with how many messages we were sending back and forth to each other about what we were hearing.
And so, with that very long introduction out of the way, that is the situation that we're dealing with here today: A little over a week ago, on November 29th, 2023, the Animal Legal Defense Fund put up a podcast episode, titled, "Episode 4: Bestiality." This was part of their podcast series Animal Amicus. In the episode, two lawyers named David Rosengard and Nicole Pallotta discuss the legal theory and legal history of bestiality law, mostly focusing on the United States. And me and Tarro, two zoophiles, listened to it.
Bestiality law is certainly an interesting topic. It's one of those things that's right at the heart of how society has decided we should treat animals. Making a law that sexual contact between a human and an animal is a felony punishable by time in prison, unless the sexual contact was done for the purposes of agriculture, says a lot about what our culture values. Certainly, if you were going to make a podcast episode all about these laws and how they have been ruled on and changed over time, you would have lots to talk about for two hours.
And, talking about bestiality law for two hours is what David and Nicole did... kind of. They did talk about bestiality law. But in my opinion, they did not talk about bestiality law in a neutral or fully honest way. I think they would agree with me that they didn't talk about bestiality law in a neutral way, because all that that means is that they weren't dryly reciting the law without stating any opinions one way or the other on it: they did present opinions, they did present what values and best practices they would hope good laws should reflect. They were very open, throughout the episode, about desiring that the laws better protect animals: that is not a neutral thing to want, but it is a good thing to want. It's not neutral, but that's not inherently a criticism. However, I do suspect that if they are reading this, they would disagree with the other part of my proposition, where I propose that their coverage wasn't fully honest. And so let me explain why I came away with that impression after listening to their podcast.
As lawyers, David and Nicole will be very familiar with how important the presentation of narrative is. If you have a murder case, the prosecution might want to present evidence to the jury that the accused didn't pay his child support payments, while the defense would then strongly argue that the jury should not see that evidence when they come into the room because the child support payments are irrelevant to whether or not a murder was committed. Whether or not the judge allows that to be raised in front of the jury may very much effect the jury's opinions on the character of the accused, whether he seems like a bad guy or a good guy, and it could very much have an effect on the outcome of the case.
Early on in the Animal Amicus episode on bestiality, really the first thing they actually got into talking about, was a discussion on animal fighting. It wasn't a quick two sentence mention of the fact that animal fighting exists, and here's how that's kind of legally related to bestiality law. No, it was a seven minute long description of how people will abusively exploit the loving nature of animals to instead train them to gruesomely kill each other, and how bad guy criminals will use these animal fighting rings to meet up and do crimes like human trafficking and selling drugs. And, I have to be honest, as I write this now, I struggle to remember how that was related in any meaningful way to the main bestiality law topic of the episode. My memory is that there was some suggestion made that animal fighting is similar to bestiality because it is maliciously exploiting the good nature that an animal might have towards humans to train them to do something that is actually bad for them. As a zoophile who was listening, and whether or not this is a fair interpretation, that came across to me like a deliberate tactic to confuse the narrative. A way to begin painting all of the people who they were about to be talking about as bad guys. Coloring all forms of bestiality as assumedly abusive, without interrogating that preconception all that much.
Now, regular readers of this magazine will have seen me (again, Alissa, hi,) say this before, but I want to make something really clear at this point. I love dogs. I live and breathe dogs. I grew up with dogs. I am genuinely bilingual in that I speak English and Dog. As I have alluded to earlier in this very article, I think fondly back on the countless hours and countless miles spent going along sidewalks and trails with a dog, days and nights, exploring the city's neighborhoods block by block and park by park, him getting to learn what all of the mailboxes and areas of grass smell like, getting to wag at other passing humans and dogs, me getting to learn where he often likes to stop to sniff for longer or which road he usually likes to go down over the other roads, his choices evolving over time with his desire to explore more and more, and I feel that that was time in my life well spent. I love conversing with dogs, moments where they ask for something; sometimes it's fun to tease, "Do you want... broccoli?" and get a rise out of them, wagging as he barks at me for my bad guess, and then I of course offer food, water, a walk. Or communicating on things that aren't directly about their material needs, but are showing that I see what he's seeing, and I care about how he feels: acknowledging, "Yeah, the neighbors are arguing again, huh? I'm sorry. I hope they'll be done soon. We'll be okay." I love snuggling outside on the grass, and I love falling asleep with a dog cuddled against me. I am sad when I see a dog get hurt, maybe taking a bad step when they were flying around at the dog park, and I feel their pain as my own. If I caused the pain, like if I trimmed a nail too short, I apologize profusely, feel terrible, offer treats to try to make up for it and don't continue whatever action caused the pain. I like the way dogs kiss, their tongue eagerly prodding at the inside of my mouth as each of us playfully tilt out heads in different directions to make the angle of it work even better for us.
I bring up all of that love of dogs to say this: David and Nicole's discussion on animal fighting has n-o-t-h-i-n-g to do with my experience of zoosexuality. It was interesting to hear, as something c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e-l-y unrelated to who I am, what I do, what I have ever done, what I see, what I hear others talking about, I cannot emphasize enough how this very drawn out point about animal fighting to introduce the bestiality topic was completely disconnected from any of my experiences as a zoosexual.
And even when they did move on to the actual topic of bestiality, I largely felt the same way. They described many varieties of human-animal sexual contact and many models of why someone might end up having sex with an animal, and I very, very, very rarely, during the entire two hours, felt like they were talking about me. Obviously it's a podcast talking about law, and they are understandably going to focus on the bad. But I never heard the caveat that I would find important: that the bad people they're talking about aren't representative of the whole of animal-sex-doing people, and that some people share seemingly very nice sexual relationships with animals. They acknowledged in one segment that some people exist who self-describe as feeling that they have nice sexual relationships with animals, but they did not express that they actually believed such a thing to be true. At least not as far as I heard, as a zoosexual listener.
Throughout the episode, they described some monstrous things that humans do to animals. And it's probably true that a lot of those things do happen, and I would make no argument against criminalizing the torture of animals, nor would I make any arguments against them talking about those things on their episode about bestiality law. But when you describe the very topic of bestiality as "squicky," clearly wanting to be seen to be grossed out by the topic, when you put on a doubtful voice when talking about the modern zoophile liberation movement, when you treat it as a given that animals cannot consent, you're painting with a broad brush. You are choosing to put me in the same criminal category as the worst of the worst, by the sounds of it. To David and Nicole, I would acknowledge, you did find monstrous zoophiles. But I would then ask, do you think I couldn't point you to the Wikipedia pages of some monstrous anthropophiles? Maybe we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you brought up that dolphins might be able to consent because Flipper was known to try to assert himself on his human co-stars, I have some exciting news for you about what some adult unneutered dogs are known to do.
But it wasn't that I didn't feel seen, in all of these discussions on the podcast. It was worse, actually. It was that I felt seen and then erased. David and Nicole did their research. They made it clear they are aware of zoo message boards and the Zeta Principles, and Tarro and I honestly even felt that they may have read articles from this magazine as well, based on the way that they worded and understood some issues on zoosexuality; there were quite a number of times where they said things in a way that you probably wouldn't have thought to say it unless this magazine was your source. We appreciate the interest, if that was the case. Either way, the point is that they knew that zoophiles who aim to love rather than abuse do exist. My honest impression, listening to this podcast as an ethical zoophile, is that David and Nicole, David in particular as the one who did more of the talking, did an irresponsibly bad job of covering the topic of bestiality in light of that knowledge. I believe they covered the topic of bestiality in a way that is worse than what I like to think they were capable of. I believe they expressed things that were overly easy narrative shortcuts, things which convey an emotionally charged case, but are not the entirety of the truth.
Let me be really clear about why it matters to us that the discussion on bestiality not take easy narrative shortcuts. I have zoosexual friends who have never done anything more with their animal partners than getting their genitals licked now and then when the animal seems interested after being shown the genitals, in a context where the animal was just as free to walk away or do nothing as they were to lick. I have zoosexual friends who have never been with an animal at all. I have zoosexual friends who grew up in abusive households and now find comfort in providing a dog with all of the nurture and respect that they never got growing up, taking care of all of the animal's needs including a healthy sex life, and to coerce or force their animal partner into anything sexual that the animal didn't want would be a foundational evil so unthinkable they would rather die. I have zoosexual friends who grew up in perfectly privileged households who all the same found that their interests were drawn towards animals as the sexual and romantic partners who they were on the same wavelength as, who they cared the most about caring for. I have zoosexual friends whose mares will back their thing up into the zoosexual even when the zoosexual is too busy for that right now and he ignores them, but the mares still go to him rather than the stallions because, while a stallion's endowment is impressive, sometimes a stallion's technique is not what an equine woman is in the mood for, and a mare will certainly tell you what she is not or is in the mood for. I have zooromantic friends who would consider themselves asexual personally, but would still let a dog penetrate them if it was something that the dog is expressing they would greatly enjoy. Basically, I know a lot of zoos, and have heard even more stories second hand, of people who would have a severe disservice done to them by saying that the character of their relationships was the same as someone who would rape a sheep because they don't see the sheep as anything more than an object that they can use. Some people have raped animals in such a way. That is a real thing that people have done, and that kind of act should be criminal. We are not that. For as much as they are real, we are also real. These are our real lives. Our real loves. Our real projects. Our real friends. Our real art. Our real pride. Our real community.
We have cultivated a culture, or some people have arrived at these ideals all on their own, of exalting nonhuman partners and putting their needs paramount in our lives, including their basic needs of food and shelter and exercise, and their emotional needs for a feeling of safety, feelings of fun, feelings of calm, and, if they show that they're interested—and hey, they are adults after all—feelings of sexual desire. I think it's a little silly to suggest that these needs have to be met within their own species; to suggest that humans can't figure it out. To suggest that an animal is fine to get a markedly larger number of Beggin Strips than they would in the wild, but a markedly larger number of human kisses is too far. It's not rocket science: it's knot rocket science, and we've had it figured out for a pretty long while now, what with dog breeder being a literal job that someone can have. We understand the good people of the Animal Legal Defense Fund may not approve of dog breeding either—I don't know whether they do or not—but, the point being that humans understand the mechanics at play, and if a dog is asking for a little fun way to pass the time that might maybe involve his penis please, the human who has done it before probably doesn't have worse odds of giving the assist successfully than another member of the dog's own species.
To us, animals can consent. The main ones we're usually talking about, anyways: dogs, horses, donkeys, cows, that sort of fare, who are sexually mature adults for their species and whose general size and reproductive method and those sorts of things are compatible for sexually gratifying activities with humans. It's true a dog can't consent to getting a home loan, but that is really clearly not what we're talking about here. Animals understand the idea of sex as much as they care to understand it. As was said on the podcast, animals engage in autoerotic behaviors and non reproductive sex in the wild. Sometimes it's about fun for them, or bonding, or relieving an urge, but whatever it is, I would say that a human who is on good terms with the animal isn't in the wrong for helping the animal out with that part of their life, with that part of their experiences. In the zoo community—the parts of it that I have friends in, anyways—we also cultivate a culture of caring a lot if the animal does not consent, and stopping if the animal is expressing a desire to stop at any point, and not ever beginning into any sexual acts that amount to more than light courtship if the animal doesn't seem enthused with your courtship or is not the one who is courting you.
I would posit that there is a difference, morally, between Person One, who gets down on the ground with their dog and nuzzles around with him, and the dog mounts them and the dog humps their hand for a handjob and the dog licks their face afterwards, and Person Two, who grabs hold of a dog and restrains them as the dog is yelping and attempting to get away and the human forcibly stimulates the dog's penis as the dog attempts to bite them. I would posit that the moral difference is so significant that Person One's actions should not be worth the attention of our criminal justice system at all, while Person Two's actions should be.
Laws that seek to protect animals are good. Ethical zoophiles and animal rights organizations should not be at odds. The difficulty is that we often see animal rights organizations engaging in what, to us, looks like a disappointing amount of human exceptionalism. Humans certainly are special in some ways. Our architecture, our arts, and our weaponry really stands out from what other species tend to be doing. It makes sense to want to use these exceptional traits and abilities to provide for animals above and beyond better than they themselves can on their own. But humans are not so far gone from animals, so far exceptional from animals, that we cannot communicate with them. That is silly to suggest. They are not infants—I mean, except the specific individuals that are, but, you understand. An animal like a horse can communicate to a human worries and desires. An animal like a horse can feel aroused. If you doubt those statements to be true, I might dare say you've never spent much time taking care of them.
We feel, when we see people making arguments that animals can't consent to sex, that it's such an outlandish argument, based on everything we know to be true, that it must stem from somewhere else, something that is not true. Some other reason, besides the plain as day facts to the contrary, why someone would say anything so goofy.
Maybe someone making the argument that animals can't consent has an agenda to push, wanting to sensationalize zoophiles as a way of suppressing sexual expression and making people huddle to more conservative values, or wanting to sensationalize the dumbness of animals to deny them their autonomy and make people feel okay buying animal products because buying animal products is the societally acceptable way to engage with animals.
Maybe someone making the argument that animals can't consent has a greater good in mind, knowingly lying when they assert that animals can't consent, but considering it a lie that is to effect better outcomes, because trying to find out whether an animal consented is harder than finding out whether an animal had sex, and so stronger laws can be written to protect animals if we outlaw all sexual contact: even if it punishes relationships which would have been consenting, it at least protects the would-be victims more strongly, and that is what matters to the person who is making the argument for that reason.
Maybe someone making the argument that animals can't consent has a lack of bravery, and doesn't actually see why animals can't consent, but doesn't want to be seen to be going against the social norms on the topic.
Maybe—and this is what we hope the case actually was with this podcast—somebody making the argument that animals can't consent just hasn't thought about it enough. They haven't seen the good side of this niche world, they haven't had the right conversations, they haven't had enough time to really mull it over, they haven't thought about how the boots on the ground dialogue between a human and a dog can be pretty straightforward on a lot of other matters, and that maybe to suggest sex is always an exception is rather condescending, either to the human or to the dog.
But to have done as much research as David and Nicole did, and still so casually present bestiality as an assumedly nonconsensual act? That to me is dishonesty. Even if the hosts were not entirely convinced that animals could consent to sex, there should have at least been enough room for doubt that a lot of the language in the show should have come with a lot more caveats and a lot more counter examples.
There is an interesting article that came out recently, from the Journal of Controversial Ideas, titled Zoophilia Is Morally Permissible. The article posits, with what we would believe to be very sound argumentation and adequately thorough research, that bestiality being permissible should be the default assumption, and that cases to the contrary are what should be proven. It's a very well crafted piece of moral philosophy, and therefore very relevant to law. It's worth a read. A link will be at the bottom of the article.
This very long talk on how animals can consent—and at times do consent and at other times don't consent—is all to say, we at Zooey Dot Pub believe it is dangerously irresponsible of a podcast on bestiality law to assume that all cases of bestiality automatically involve non-consent. And we certainly got the impression, listening to that podcast episode, that that was the assumption these lawyers were largely operating under.
That is the brunt of our criticisms here: That the narrative of zoophilia that's presented in this bestiality episode of Animal Amicus was overly eager to color all bestiality as a bad thing, when, at least on our version of planet Earth, some bestiality is a nice thing for all parties involved, human and animal. Sometimes having sex with your interspecies buddy is fun. Sometimes it's cozy. Sometimes putting your tongues in each other's mouths while you snuggle in before going to sleep is a really effective way to show that you care about someone.
Anyone who wants to hear the side of bestiality sometimes being a pretty nice thing can explore more of this website's articles, I'll put links to some of my zoo positivity favorites at the bottom.
But, the point here, in response to Animal Amicus, is that we would encourage them to be more careful when they are suggesting laws that could impact real people's lives. Harmless people's lives. Caring people's lives. Don't make the goal to paint as many people as criminals as you can. Make the goal accuracy, not body counts.
As far as other things said in the podcast, we could go minute by minute through the episode and have a lot to say; in the editing room, we have pretty much been doing just that, and I would summarize our thoughts by saying the actual discussion of legal theory in the episode is interesting, we think that the aim of animal rights is of course great, we just think the hosts didn't quite connect all of the dots that they should have to get the right picture completely. The episode is not a bad listen if you have the thick skin for it. And, we hope that those dots can be connected correctly, going forward.
Long sidebar discussions in a two hour long podcast make sense. If you want to talk about animal fighting there is plenty of room to do that. I just feel that if you aim to present a fair case, a fair news piece, a fair whatever this was, you have a duty to be clear about when something is a sidebar if you're going to do them unrelated to the episode's topic. Not just in fact, but also in tone, characterization. You could have reasonably anticipated that some listeners would find the episode's topic to be a sensitive subject, and you could have made an effort to use more careful language when it came to sensitivity, and not just careful language when it came to describing the law.
It is also worth acknowledging that in law, as in many fields, sometimes words are used in ways that you don't use them normally. To zoos who are in the know, "cookie" has a whole different meaning than how the rest of the world takes it. To lawyers, "consent" means something in a legal context that is a *little* bit different from how we're used to talking about it as laypeople in only a sexual context. Not too far off, but they might use certain words in nuanced ways that you wouldn't quite expect. So when they say "animals can't consent," it is meant in a more legal sense: it amounts to the same argument, in this context, but it's worth noting.
I will also fully grant that the podcast is in some ways a freeform discussion, even if heavily researched and planned it still comes down to two people talking, and someone might phrase something in a way that they would listen back to and be like, oops, I don't feel like I conveyed what I was thinking there very well. In this article, we have attempted to respond to things in the podcast episode that are seemingly very deliberate points that are built to and hit very deliberately, or points that are seen to operate as underlying assumptions throughout several examples; we have attempted to not engage in nitpicking over whether somebody might have misspoken once. That is only to say, the criticisms we have raised were raised against what we perceived as shortcomings that were not an error in performance, but an underlying error in understanding, an actual gap we hope to bridge.
I will admit that in this article I spoke about dogs a lot, while in reality there are a whole host of other animals that the topic of bestiality is relevant to. Dogs are who I know, and experiences with them are what I can speak to the most truly. It is my understanding from listening in on discussions between other zoos that many of the things I have said about dogs should have equivalencies that can be made to other species like horses, but I would not be the one best equipped to say what those would be. Species very different from dogs such as birds, snakes, or fish would likely share much less argumentation in common, or in many cases none of the same argumentation. I would hope the point stands that if there is a point to be made with dogs, then there is a point to be made at all.
It's worth repeating that we at the magazine would be completely on the same page as what we heard in that episode on many topics. We, too, are against the production of videos of animals being tortured for someone else's sexual gratification. We are against animals being used sexually as a form of nonconsensual degradation. We are against someone using an animal sexually as though the animal is an object whose consent is irrelevant and not considering the animal a partner whose consent matters. Our critique here is perhaps worded so strongly *because* of how much we also disapprove of those things, and because of the concern that we did not see ourselves adequately differentiated *from* those things that we look on so disapprovingly. These types of narratives hurt real people, emotionally and in our imperfect justice system. Someone accused of bestiality will often have their animals confiscated before any trial has even been held, and those animals are often killed in the shelter system, and even if they live, they are highly unlikely to make it back to the owner even if the case is dropped before it goes to trial. Imagine the pain felt there by a bald pal and a fuzzy pal who generally took good care of each other and were close enough friends that they just had fun licking each other's penises sometimes.
Someone may accuse this response of being based in anecdotes. As an understudied minority, anecdotes are what we have. I hope the depth and variety of them here has at least given some impression of them being worthwhile. I hope that even if someone were to take them as mere hypotheticals, they would be hypotheticals that provoked worthwhile doubts. For studies to be done there must be some reason for an interest to be taken in doing the research, and it is the hope that efforts such as this magazine will encourage more academic interest in the future. The fact that we do not have this research yet does not mean we do not yet exist as people who are harmed by bad laws in this area, nor does it mean that that research wouldn't end up supporting our arguments.
And as one last piece of useful context: This also does not matter, yet. The Animal Legal Defense Fund are lawyers apparently engaged in what they believe to be animal advocacy, we here at the magazine are zoophiles engaged in what we believe to be animal advocacy and what we believe to be an overdue slice of queer positivity. Neither of us are currently actually making the laws, at least as far as I'm aware, although hey I don't know what David or Tarro are doing at every hour of the day so maybe I could be proven wrong here. But, the point here is that neither that podcast nor this article are enforceable items of law: What they *are* is discourse. Probably discourse with the hope of effecting actual change, but, we're not there right now, we're just at the talking about ideas part of it.
And here is the idea that I want to convey to the Animal Legal Defense Fund: Do Better. Do better enough, speak truly enough to the personhood and the autonomy of the animals who we call our partners, that we can consider one another allies, not adversaries. Your hope for a world where animals are not treated as mere commodities is admirable: I would echo many of those hopes that I heard you express as though they were my own. I don't eat meat, and I would gladly see a world where no human did. I would gladly see a world where all dogs have good shelter, good meals, and good families. Broadly speaking, we want the same things. I think you are both very intelligent and have very nice speaking voices, which are great assets for lawyers to have, and I hope that you are able to use your talents to effect positive change in law and in the lives of animals. All I ask is that you not miss the angel in the details.
Article written by Alissa Dogchurch (December 2023)
If you are reading this, David, Nicole, or anyone else at the ALDF, and you're interested in having a conversation, feel free to reach out to us on Twitter, via our email, or anywhere else. And if you're a zoo who's made it all the way to the end of this very long piece, consider sending in a message to the ALDF talking about your experience as a zoo. Give them a few more examples of who we really are. 
Animal Amicus podcast, Episode 4: Bestiality
Articles related to zoo positivity:
Zoophilia Is Morally Permissible, from the Journal of Controversial Ideas https://journalofcontroversialideas.org/article/3/2/255
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