Zoo Activism

I've been a zoo for a long time. I've been an active part of the community now for a year and a half, but I've been behind the scenes for a lot longer. And as a decently long-time observer, I have to say that the community's relationship to "activism" has changed a lot in that time. There have always been activists of course. People that have tried to change social perception on zoosexuality. But in my experience, it was always kind of a joke. One or two individuals, usually on forums or groups only visited by other zoos, talking about why society should accept us. Or, sometimes you'd get crossover with the furry fandom. But that tended to be more towards porn than about real life. 
I have to imagine for most zoos, living in a world where there's total zoo acceptance, at the level of any other sexual minority at least, would be a dream they'd love to see. But, in certain parts of the community, there's also a lot of resentment towards the idea. If you've spent your whole time in the community on Twitter, or in the ZDP Discord server, chances are you might have been able to avoid this discussion. But in other places it's much more common. 
I want to talk about this for a minute though. As someone who is heavily on the activism side, I'm obviously incredibly biased here, but I want to give my perspective for why I do what I do. It's not that I haven't heard the arguments. I've absolutely given care and consideration to the idea. But I've come out believing whole heartedly in pushing for a better future. Before we get to the positives though, let's spend some time with the negatives, because if you're a regular reader of this magazine and are interested in zoo positivity in general, then it might be hard to imagine what the negatives of zoo positivity from zoos are even claimed to be
There are two basic arguments for why activism is bad. And in fairness, I think they are both really important things to talk about. The first one is this. 
"If we start promoting zoophilia, and by extension bestiality, there are going to be more people who decide that they want to fuck animals, and those people may not have the same level of care and respect for animals that zoos currently have. Therefore, we're exposing animals to potential risk by introducing more people to bestiality."
I have a lot of sympathy for this argument. Because I do think at the end of the day the wellbeing of our animals is something that should outweigh any other concerns. But, I think this argument is missing a certain level of imagination. Here's how I see it. 
First of all, this argument is based off the assumption that the general public would be interested in having sex with animals at all, even if it was normalized. And then past that, that they would be less considerate about it. I don't necessarily believe that those things are true. With more acceptance would for sure come more zoos, as people become willing to even look at that part of themselves in the mirror. But I don't know if every house on the block would try screwing the pooch, so to speak, just because other people are doing it. Certainly there would be some level of increased interest just based off of experimentation with a new thing, but most straight men don't try getting penetrated anally just because it's something to do. And even if they were going to try, the idea that they would approach it with no concern for their partner just doesn't seem realistic. I have a very low level of respect for most pet owners, and yet even I don't think that most people would just go at it with no forethought or research done beforehand. 
Which brings me to my next point, education. In a world where zoosexuality and bestiality are normalized, we would also be able to create much better and more accessible resources for people just getting into this to be able to better understand how to make sure that they're playing safe and that both sides are having fun. In fact, I would argue that right now it's probably more dangerous to be a new zoo just getting into things than it would be if we actually achieved our goals. I can much more easily see someone trying things without doing research first if they're scared googling "How to fuck my mare" or "Can I penetrate my cat" is going to get them arrested, or at least put on a list. If the information on how to do things correctly was easily accessible, I think the people interested would take advantage of that. 
Just as a quick example, let's talk for a minute about anal sex. Anal sex is objectively more dangerous and more complicated than vaginal sex. There are more steps involved in the process, there's a greater risk of harm, there's more effort that needs to go into it. If you decide you're someone that wants to try anal sex for the first time, and you just meet up with someone and have them stick something in you with zero preparation, you're likely going to have an awful time. Thankfully, that isn't the experience that most people have nowadays. There's a lot more common information on things like stretching, lube, cleaning out, and just in general what to expect. If you're someone that grew up gay before these were accessible resources however, you might have had a very different experience. Either you had someone who was more knowledgeable that you knew personally "show you the ropes" so to speak, or you figured things out on your own. Both of those routes have problems. What's way better is the ability to just hop online and google "how to prepare for anal sex" and get a 7 step wikiHow article with pictures and descriptions, giving you the information that you need to know in a safe and practical way, and then giving you the room to explore past that. That's what I picture for zoosexuality. If bam suddenly tomorrow bestiality is legalized and you think "well, might as well give it a go," I want you to be able to google "how to have sex with dog" and have you be able to get expert answers at the ready with no fear of judgement. 
There's always going to be abusers. That's a fact of life. But those abusers aren't suddenly going realize "oh I guess I can abuse animals, I didn't even think about that," just because they see a zoo flag in a pride parade. And with the right laws that maintain punishment against actual abuse, and just allow for consensual sex acts, that problem doesn't get any worse. It just ends up creating a better world for zoos who want to be with their partners. And if people are curious, that's awesome. The resources are there for them to learn more. 
This, however, is the easier of the two problems in my opinion. The other one is a lot more complicated. The argument is something like this.
"By drawing attention to the idea of zoosexuality, we're bringing on more criticism. Most people don't know we exist, and even if they do most people just don't care. By trying to force the issue into everyone's face, we're making things actively harder for zoos because we're forcing people to care, and that reaction is always going to be negative."
And honestly, that's true. Kind of. I think even among the staunchest of the zoo activist people, there's an understanding that things will get worse before they get better. When confronted with ideas that they don't like, people's first reaction is typically rejection. And absolutely, I think it's possible that by forcing the issue we'll probably see much more large scale opposition. Possibly even legally. There are still places in the world where bestiality is legal, and we could see that change. 
But personally, I think it's worth it. 
Here's the thing. Sure, if you're an average joe zoo out there, there's a pretty good chance you can live your life pretty damn zooey and never have to worry about it. Especially if you're in a more rural area. Maybe you've got some horses who you love a ton, and you're happy living your life in their company. Maybe you've even got some friends and family who know that you relationship goes deeper than most people too. And that's fantastic for you. And I'm happy for you. But just because you're not directly facing oppression doesn't mean that you aren't oppressed. Sure, chances are that nobody is going to find out, but that doesn't make what you're doing any less technically "wrong." You can live your whole life keeping your love a secret, and if that's good for you then amazing, but that doesn't change that telling people is still a risk at the end of the day. If you see others posting about their love of their partners online, you might want to hop in, and then realize it would be smarter not to, and feel that twinge of being left out. That twinge that even if you've found people who are okay with what you are and what you do, it still isn't something you can shout about to the whole wide world in the same way that others can.
And here's the thing. By fighting for rights, you don't really have all that much zoo rights ground to lose to begin with. Sure, there'll absolutely be negative backlash, and people will get mad. There'll be angry news reports and legal battles and legislation changes. But does that matter? Can things get any worse? Are they going to start putting trackers in mares that can detect human penis that immediately trigger the SWAT team? If you're someone who wants to live a private life, you can do so regardless of whether or not other people are trying to fight for their rights.
And if you're one of those lucky people living in a state or country where bestiality is legal, ask yourself. Is it really illegal? If someone took a video of you and your animal having sex and posted it online, what do you think the reaction would be? Maybe you wouldn't be going to jail, maybe. But there would almost certainly be negative reactions in the rest of your life. Your friends, your relationship, your job, all of that could be at risk. The legal status is one thing, but criminal justice isn't the only form of social punishment. 
And that's just looking at the negatives. Let's talk about the positives. Before getting into the obvious, I want to start with something smaller, but just as important. Representation. It's something that's talked about a lot in media. The idea that when you see people like you represented in the things that you love, you feel better about yourself, and learn how to be confident in yourself. As far as I know, the Zooey Dot Pub Discord server is the only place that allows zoo minors, and as such I've ended up talking to a lot of younger zoos. And there's a really common sentiment among them that they struggle with. The idea that because they're a zoo, they're a bad person. That being a zoo is objectively something "wrong." And it's easy to see why they have that feeling. It's echoing what society says about zoos. Sure, if you're someone who's got a grasp on life and you're living things your way it can be easy to not care what the internet has to say. But if you're someone who's just discovering themselves, and you check Twitter to see how people feel about zoos, and you see message after message of people telling zoos that they're monsters and should kill themselves, that's going to affect you. Brass Bulldog wrote an excellent article on this topic called "Finding Self-Acceptance," about the struggles he went through before realizing that he was okay, and actually finding pride and community among zoos.
Another common occurrence in the server is people joining as anti-zoos. They come to raid, and spam, and argue, and complain that we exist. But, for every 5 trolls with bad intentions, we get someone who comes in negatively, but just kinda... sticks around. And slowly, over time, they come to realize that the reason they were so negative is because they were scared of accepting their own feelings. Take a minute to think about how fucked up that is. Someone realizes they love animals, but feels so negatively about that association they feel the need to harass others who love animals. That's a result of the way society perceives us. And that's awful. Goshawk has an article about her experience with this exact thing called "I used to be an Anti." We will have that article and Brass's article linked below. 
If it wasn't for things like this magazine, Zooier Than Thou, and the public zoos on social media, how many more people would have ended up hating themselves their whole lives rather than finding a safe space where they can belong? Yes, obviously, some people still would have found their way into zoo spaces, just by happenstance of coming out to the exact right person who actually is a zoo themselves too, or who is open minded and knows someone who knows someone. But I have bigger goals than that. I want to cast as wide of a net as possible, so anyone who realizes they love animals can naturally stumble across help as opposed to just hopefully seeing something that resonates with them before it's too late. 
And all of that is just the effect that we have today. I would already say that that's worth any amount of added negativity that the world can throw at us. Even if you have absolutely no faith in the idea that things can change on a social level, I'd say that improving things for others like ourselves, whose struggles we can best relate to and best help with, is still pretty good.
But here's the thing. Things are already changing. The community is growing. And it's growing fast. Every day, more and more people are finding out that we exist. Sure, we're not at the point where we're making noticeable change happen yet in law or mainstream discourse, but just talk to any zoo with a public project. I get messages all the time from people saying things like "I used to hate zoos but I saw (an article) and I want to have a conversation)." or people joining the Discord server to say "I just wanted to see what you guys are all about." I'm sure that Toggle with ZooTT gets similar emails all the time as well. We aren't reaching everyone, but we're already changing minds. Even someone who just sees one of our headlines, reads it, and thinks "Oh that's interesting" might have a different reaction if they find out that someone close to them is a zoo. They might decide they want to learn a little bit more before making their judgement. The existence of Zooier Than Thou is never going to make someone who was neutral against zoos turn negative. But it might have the chance to make someone negative turn neutral, and it certainly could make someone neutral turn positive. And the more we grow, and the louder we get, the more people who's minds we can change. 
But a couple podcasts and a magazine aren't going to be enough to change the world. And that's the point of all of this article at the end of the day. There are a lot of zoos that don't believe that things can get better, or that it's not worth trying. I recently asked an older zoo that I'm friends with about why he doesn't participate more and he said this. 
"It's not like I don't want to. I just think it's pointless. The world is never going to change. Every time I look, it's nothing but hate. I don't need to get involved in that shit. I don't want to spend my time stressing when I could just enjoy what I have. I know that's selfish, but I've done what I can." 
And I get it. Being involved in activism can suck sometimes. Especially when it feels so us against the world right now. When you chose to care, you can't just take the good. You open yourself up to the bad as well. But I'm a fighter. I hate the idea of taking the easy way out just because it's safer. I'm not the kind of person who's going to back off if I see something wrong in the world. And the way that zoos are treated is absolutely wrong. Maybe it'll be harder, maybe things will get worse, maybe all of this amounts to nothing. But I would still rather give it my all and try than just sit back and be thankful that at least my situation isn't *that* bad. I want to make the world a better place. And that's arrogant as hell, absolutely. But I believe that we can do it so long as we do it together. We're a community, no matter how fractured we can be sometimes. We need as many voices as possible, of as diverse a variety as possible, because there's certainly a ton of work to do. Sit in the backseat and enjoy the ride if you'd like, but we'd love your input on how to get somewhere. And the only way you can really direct the car is by having a hand on the steering wheel. 
I know we'll get there. It's just a matter how how and when. 
Article written by Tarro (February 2024) 
Questions, comments or concerns? Check out our Discord server!

Related posts

Art can be Activism

The Marvel movies are omnipresent as a cultural touchstone, going far beyond a niche nerdy interest and asserting themselves solidly…