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The Unjustified Prohibition against Bestiality: Why the Laws in Opposition Can Find No Support under the Harm Principle

Michael Roberts

affiliation not provided to SSRN

June 1, 2009

This work explores the moral status of laws prohibiting bestiality and whether they are justified in practice or justifiable in theory. Part I of the paper introduces us to bestiality by first testing our moral intuitions regarding the act. Through a list of 10 examples we are asked to considered whether we find some acts morally wrong and therefore prohibitable. Next the paper explores the current state of the law. It considers possible definitions of bestiality from the Church, secular law, and legal scholars. Each definition is criticized as overly broad, vague, and in at least one case too narrow. Instead, a new definition of bestiality is proposed which better comports with our moral intuitions and eliminates some of the problems associated with the prior definitions.

Part II of the paper challenges the justification of laws prohibiting bestiality. Through the Harm Principle it explores whether such laws are justifiable by preventing Harm to Others, Harm to Self, Offense to Others, or Moral Legalism. In short, they are not. In order to make the laws justified, it would require we rewrite the statutes to comport with the preferable definition of bestiality discovered in Part I of the paper and justify those laws by elevating the status of animals in this country. But to afford animals so many rights would be inconsistent with our current commercialization of their species.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 41

Keywords: Animal Rights, bestiality, beastiality, harm principle, criminal ethics, unjust laws, jurisprudence

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Date posted: January 15, 2009 ; Last revised: June 10, 2009

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Michael, The Unjustified Prohibition against Bestiality: Why the Laws in Opposition Can Find No Support under the Harm Principle (June 1, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1328310 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1328310

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Michael Roberts (Contact Author)
affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )
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