Bestiality/Zoophilia should be legal and is not inherently immoral
Because of the length constraints a completely specified argument is impossible, indeed it would take a small book. I will however assert some premises which I hope are self-evident to my opponent. If they are not those topics must be clarified before meaningful debate on the resolution can be had.
1. Legality and morality are inherently linked, if something is moral it should be legal and if is legal it should be moral. The difference between them is the difference between what people think and what is. Morality is that which is right, the law is that which people (a majority of) think is right (as expressed through a democratic government).
2. To make moral claims one must have moral principles, to have moral principles one must have a moral theory. That is one must be aware of the field of philosophy which is ethics and subscribe to some system of thought in that field.
3. Baring a full derivation and support of a moral theory, the relevant theory in the case of bestiality/zoophilia is mutual consent of interacting parties + reasonable avoidance of foreseeable pain or biological damage. For those interested I hold a more constrained view as a universal principle for human society, i.e. volition is the prerequisite of all moral interaction between humans.
From these premises I would like to preempt possible strategies of my opponent by implication.
#1 means I will not entertain the notion that even if bestiality/zoophilia is moral it is detrimental to society and that constitutes a legal basis for banning it. For those who consider this unfair I ask you to think of all those things demonstrably detrimental to society that the law does allow for on the basis of personal freedom.
#2 means that I will not entertain sentiments which associate the term morality with emotional appeals, religious dogma, or mindless. If it is not wrong and you wish to merely point out how it can sometimes be dangerous or play a negative role in someone’s life then I’ll leave you to it; that is not the resolution I wish to argue.
#2 also means that there is no such thing as ‘one case at a time’ moral judgments, nothing is good or evil in a vacuum but can only be so in the context of a mountain of previously derived facts. Identifying and challenging double standards is a key technique in discovering moral fallacies. If someone can, on whim, use one standard of moral judgment in case A and another in case B then no moral debate is possible. Therefore if you are someone who thinks comparing zoophilia to homosexuality or to the practice of eating animal meat is a red herring then you should not accept the challenge.
#3 means you are willing to debate the matter of consent, I love to debate ethics and no doubt I will on this site but if you do not believe consent is the moral principle involved here you are almost certainly going to turn this into a philosophical debate.
Some notes on terms:
I use the term Bestiality/zoophilia, some other people make distinctions between these terms; I mean the practice of interspecies sex specifically involving humans as one of the species.
Is zoophilia a sexual orientation? I think so, as far as the word has objective meaning. Bottom line is that some people desire sexual relations with animals. I do not believe the causes of this phenomenon are relevant to the debate nor do I believe there is enough scientific ground work to attempt to answer that question. The homosexual movement has been chugging away for decades and nobody really has a clue what causes it.
Consent, and this is important, is defined as “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something” http://oxforddictionaries.com......... . I am fully aware that the idea of informed consent in legal circles is different and much stricter. I do not mean legal/informed consent when I say consent. No one who has a pet, no one who has partook in any animal derived products has ever had informed consent from any animals. It is an impossibility even for humans to give perfect informed consent because it presupposes that both parties are perfectly aware of the consequences of an action. Something that requires the ability to predict the future with 100% certainty.
In practice what is meant by informed consent is that one party discloses any information about the interaction which may reasonably be expected to affect the other’s decision. If one party does not have the information it cannot be given. If the other party is incapable of receiving the information it is not considered a requirement.
For instance, you bring an unconscious stranger into a hospital, the doctor will still treat them on the presumption that they want to be healed. There is no consent informed or otherwise.
Under the constraints set out above the question is:
A.) Can an animal give permission or agreement to a member of another species for sexual interaction?
There are two possible reasons why the answer to that could be no in all cases:
1. No species is capable of communicating permission, agreement, or anything really to a member of another species implicitly or explicitly
2. No species is psychologically capable of granting consent to another species
We can knock out #2 by the mere fact that this is an issue. Humans must be capable of granting consent to another species if they pursue sexual relations with them. Surely you could say humans are an exception but that would require some explanation. Why would humans be the only species capable of accepting interspecies sex? How could you reconcile this with observed instances of interspecies sex between two non-human species?
Even if a creature is incapable of choosing between acting and not acting a certain way it cannot be said that it does not consent. Instead it is more accurate to say that consent is not conceptually applicable to that species.
If a wasp stings you, you might think it was merely the sum of stimuli up to that point that caused it. There is not enough of an independent consciousness in a wasp brain to ever decide not to sting you given the same inputs. It is incorrect to say that the wasp accepts or refuses the interaction. It does neither but if you had to choose, it would be acceptance because if it did have the ability to choose obviously its actions would reflect its choice.
#1 is a little harder but not by much. Consider the following premise
It is impossible for a creature to pursue an action to which it does not consent provided it does not fear retribution for failure to comply.
This can be established easily by looking at its negation which is “It is possible for a creature to pursue a course of action it does not consent to, even if there is no fear of retribution for failure to comply”. It’s a contradiction in terms. If it can agree with anything it must agree with itself.
Therefore even in the absence of verbal or body language, if an animal pursues a course of action where no negative consequences have ever been employed as the result of failing to pursue said course of action, then it has implicitly communicated its intention and its acceptance of the action. If that action is in fact an interaction it must also consent to the interaction.
To compound that point most animals which zoophiles are interested in mating with are quite capable of body language and vocal communication of a basic sort. Note that “Yes” and “No” are very basic communications which any higher animal owner can attest to understanding.
Whether that decision is the result of some faculty of self-determination or is pure instinct is actually irrelevant. If it is pure instinct then the creature never had any freedom to violate. If it has self-determination then it is determining things for itself.
In summation if there exists any example of an animal showing through action absent negative conditioning the acceptance of sexual relations with another species the answer to question A is Yes, at least in some cases. If in some cases an animal can consent to interspecies sex, then surely in some cases an animal can consent to sex with a human, thus on the consent principle it is moral to have sex with an animal.. in some cases.
I want to wrap up with an example question: Horseback riding. Do you believe a horse can consent to being ridden? How would you know?
I wish to thank Pro for instituting this debate.
Pro's case is essentially based on the concept of "consent." Let's look at his claims.
1. Number one is cearly false. Legality and morality are not linked at all. What is legal is not necessarily moral, and not all immoral things are illegal. Adultery is not illegal. Also, slavery was once legal in our country, but that did not make it moral.
2. I'm not sure about this point, as people clearly recognize moral claims without necessarily having given any thought to any sort of moral theory.
3. Pro has asserted that the relevant theory in this case is mutual consent of interacting parties and reasonable avoidance of foreseeable pain or biological damage. If one or both of these claims fail, then Pro's case fails. Since Pro is making the claim, he has the burden of proof to show that animals can, indeed, consent, and that pain or biological damage is avoided. I do not believe he has done this.
So let's look at the "strategies" that Pro is offering.
1. This claim clearly contradicts number one above. If legality is inherently linked with morality, then if it is illegal that would mean that it is, indeed, immoral. Since the government is interested in what is detrimental or beneficial to society, if bestiality/zoophilia is detrimental to society, then society is well within its rights to make it (or keep it) illegal.
2. This point also seems to contradict his first point. He says that if I wish to talk about how dangerous it is, he will not entertain those statements. But one essential part of his case (remember, he used the word and) is whether or not it poses pain or biological damage. So if it is dangerous, then that would seem to refute the proposition he has laid out.
3. Pro seems to want to avoid a philosophical debate, but an obvious problem with this is that a debate over consent is a philosophical argument. Science can tell us whether or not animals may be able to consent to sexual intercourse, but debating that consent is the relevant feature of a moral sexual ethic is debating a philosophical claim.
As Pro seems to be using beastiality/zoophilia interchangably, I will simply use "beastiality" from here on out to mean both.
I don't think zoophilia is a sexual orientation. People engage in all sorts of debased sexual acts, but we don't consider each one a sexual orientation. I am open to being incorrect on this, but either way I don't think it has any bearing on the debate (as I would argue that homosexual acts are also immoral).
I will accept Pro's definition of consent. The question is, do animals meet the consent criteria? Someone like Peter Singer will argue that they can.  I, however, am much more dubious.
I also disagree with Pro's contention that no human can give informed consent. For example, we still hold drunk drivers accountable for their accidents because we still view them as consenting to drive. Someone can choose to have sex or not, knowing that there is a chance that sex will produce a child. People often are perfectly aware of the consequences of their actions because the consequences are often limited. However, even when someone engages in an act that has an unintended consequence, we still hold them responsible for committing the act because one is expected to weigh all the possible consequences before acting. It is true that people don't seek consent from animals before eating them, but that is because animals are only instrumentally valuable, valuable only insofar as humans valuable them. They are not intrinsically valuable, that is, valuable as an ends unto themselves, like humans are. But since Pro's case is based on consent, he must prove that animals can consent.
Pro's contention that it is not a requirement for one party to have all the information if they are unable to receive the information is shocking and, frankly, dangerous. Pro's case of the surgeon is correct, but that is because the surgeon intends to help the patient and cannot wait for consent or the patient will die. However, if a woman is passed out drunk at a party and a guy asks for her consent, he still cannot have sexual relations with her, even though she is unable to receive the information. We call that rape, and rightly so.
So in short, Pro has not met his burden of proof. He has not proven that animals can consent. In fact, he seems to have based his case on the fact that they can't consent. Therefore, his case is self-refuting. If consent is important, and animals cannot consent, then it is tantamount to rape to have sex with animals.
Let's take a look at his summation:
1. I'm not sure this is completely true. Animals can communicate some basic desires to humans, such as "I'm hungry, feed me." I think I can safely assume I have her consent to lay food in front of her. But the reason we consider adults having sex with minors as statutory rape is because they don't really understand what it is they're getting into, even though they can utter the word "yes." So even though an animal may seem to express sexual desire, it would be wrong to take advantage of an animal (as well as the other philosophical reasons that sex with animals is immoral, but Pro seemed not to want to get into that discussion).
2. Pro seems to knock out number two, and I don't see it as important. But the problem with Pro's claim is that the reason we forbid sex with animals is because we are rational beings (unlike animals). We can fully understand the gravity of our actions and accept the consequences. If an animal kills another animal, they have killed, but they have not committed murder. If a human kills another human unjustly, they have committed murder. This is not to say that animals have no value, rather it actually protects animals when we realize this. That way people can't take sexual advantage of them. That way people can't mistreat them or force them to fight. By recognizing that humans have certain obligations toward animals that they don't have to each other, it protects those animals from a species who is quite capable of doing unspeakably bizarre and harmful things that other animals could never even dream of.
The example of the wasp doesn't really add anything to his argument. I don't know that wasps are incapable of refusing to sting you. Bees are usually a lot more docile, and wasps seem willing to sting anyone they want for any reason. But when an animal attacks, it is usually out of instinct (you are probably encroaching on its lair or it views you as a threat).
Again, I don't know that it would be impossible for an animal to pursue an action to which it does not consent. Pro has provided no evidence for these claims. I think that Pro is trying to play semantic word games. I don't know that any animal would ever perform an action it would not consent to. Animals are incapable of holding other animals up at gunpoint. I think that Pro's argument that animals can consent are dealt with by the argument that they don't really know what they are consenting to, just like young girls don't, and we throw adults in jail who have sex with them. Adult humans are capable of realizing the full gravity of a situation. Animals are't.
And to answer his question, I think horses can consent to being ridden. If they didn't want tbe ridden, they would buck you off (as we see at rodeos). But then again, there are things adults can do with children that we don't throw them in jail for (e.g. helping them with homework or taking them to the zoo). What's important is whether or not animals can consent to sex, and whether or not humans should be taking sexual advantage of them.
In short, Pro's case has not stood up. He has not shown that animals are not harmed through sexual acts with humans, and he has not supported his contenton that animals can consent. With that, I turn things back over to Pro.
 Peter Singer, "Heavy Petting."
1.) "Also, slavery was once legal in our country, but that did not make it moral."
If I thought legality and morality were equal I wouldn't be arguing that the law is immoral. Read more carefully, I said the law should reflect morality not that it always does.
3.) "Since Pro is making the claim, he has the burden of proof to show that animals can, indeed, consent, and that pain or biological damage is avoided."
Incorrect, the burden of proof is on the party that claims something exists, even if someone else made the original claim of non-existence. I have the burden of proof to show that animals can and have consented to sex with humans. If you are claiming they are necessarily harmed by sex the burden of proof is on you. I will not be called upon to prove a negative.
"This claim clearly contradicts number one above. If legality is inherently linked with morality, then if it is illegal that would mean that it is, indeed, immoral."
Already addressed, please research the difference between the words "link" and "equal".
"This point also seems to contradict his first point. He says that if I wish to talk about how dangerous it is, he will not entertain those statements."
how it can sometimes be dangerous, as can almost anything in life. Also in this case I was referring to danger to the human whereas in the first case I referenced the harm to animals.
"Pro seems to want to avoid a philosophical debate, but an obvious problem with this is that a debate over consent is a philosophical argument."
I don't wish to avoid it, but I know there is not enough time or space to debate whether consent is a valid standard and whether animals consent. You should not have accepted if you did not wish to accept the standard I specified in the scope of this debate.
"because animals are only instrumentally valuable, valuable only insofar as humans valuable them. They are not intrinsically valuable, that is, valuable as an ends unto themselves"
I would like to point out that upon such a premise there is no way in hell that anyone could claim animal abuse is immoral much less claim that bestiality is animal abuse therefore it is immoral.
"I also disagree with Pro's contention that no human can give informed consent."
They can, but not perfect informed consent - i.e. consenting while being aware of ALL possible consequences with infinite precision for the odds. I was pointing out that the concept itself is rooted in a general but arbitrary level of understanding. As you say when someone consents to something they are consenting to consequences they may not have predicted. It is only considered wrong if one party intentionally withholds relevant information from another party capable of receiving the information about an interaction.
"Pro's case of the surgeon is correct, but that is because the surgeon intends to help the patient and cannot wait for consent or the patient will die. However, if a woman is passed out drunk at a party and a guy asks for her consent, he still cannot have sexual relations with her, even though she is unable to receive the information. We call that rape, and rightly so."
Two cases but the only objective difference is in the intentions of the person seeking interaction. Since the doctor wants to 'help' he can ignore a requirement for informed consent. But since the man at the party is being 'selfish' he cannot. Morality in such a system does not turn on informed consent but intention, arbitrarily deemed noble or base.
Perhaps we should introduce the concept of implied consent. The doctor has good reason to believe that if awake and in their right mind the patient would consent to being helped. The man at the party probably does not have the same. Yet still, informed consent is not always considered a requirement.
What if the woman was not passed out but merely drunk? What if in that state she consented to sex, but it was not something she would do if she was not drunk? Above you said you hold drunk drivers accountable for their accidents, do you hold drunk party goers accountable for their 'accidents' too?
"So in short, Pro has not met his burden of proof. He has not proven that animals can consent. In fact, he seems to have based his case on the fact that they can't consent. Therefore, his case is self-refuting. If consent is important, and animals cannot consent, then it is tantamount to rape to have sex with animals."
You totally lost me, you didn't even address my proof at this point. It was the negation of the two universal statements. I at no time said all animals can't consent. I hope your next post will be significantly more honest than this one appears to be.
"1. I'm not sure this is completely true."
I am sure it is false, glad you agree.
"So even though an animal may seem to express sexual desire, it would be wrong to take advantage of an animal"
Correct me if I'm wrong but I am reading "So even though an animal may consent, it would be wrong to take advantage of that consent"
"2. Pro seems to knock out number two, and I don't see it as important."
If both 1. and 2. are false, and you seem to be admitting they are; then as I said A.) must be true in some cases. That was my proof which you said I had somehow contradicted.
"But the problem with Pro's claim is that the reason we forbid sex with animals is because we are rational beings (unlike animals). We can fully understand the gravity of our actions and accept the consequences."
To be clear, you are not saying here that animals cannot consent, but are now shifting the goal posts to "animals can't understand what they are consenting to"
I addressed this already with my comments on informed consent. I don't care if they understand sex as well as a human might, I challenge you to give a good reason why that would be necessary when they can't ever understand anything as well as we can.
"This is not to say that animals have no value, rather it actually protects animals when we realize this."
You said :
"because animals are only instrumentally valuable, valuable only insofar as humans valuable them. They are not intrinsically valuable, that is, valuable as an ends unto themselves"
If an animal's only value is its value to a human, and a human only values it as a sex toy, then there is no value to protect if that animal can't be a sex toy.
It comes down to this, you would let a human walk up to an animal slit it's throat and consume it's flesh, but if they have consenting mutually enjoyable sex you would disallow it because the animal isn't as smart as human. It's absurdly contradictory.
"it protects those animals from a species who is quite capable of doing unspeakably bizarre and harmful things that other animals could never even dream of."
Prove that sex is unspeakably bizarre and harmful please.
"Again, I don't know that it would be impossible for an animal to pursue an action to which it does not consent. Pro has provided no evidence for these claims"
Evidence is not required, I proved it by definition. It is a contradiction in terms for a consciousness to disagree with itself.
"I think that Pro's argument that animals can consent are dealt with by the argument that they don't really know what they are consenting to"
The animal is consenting to sex, whatever sex means to them. The human is consenting to sex, whatever that means to them. Perceptions of the interaction need not be identical, and consent is consent no matter else the truth may be.
You can't prove me wrong by ceding that I am right. You can't debunk my argument that animals are capable of consent by saying they don't consent in the 'right' way or for the 'right' reasons.
"Adult humans are capable of realizing the full gravity of a situation. Animals are't."
The situation doesn't seem so very grave to me, and even if it was humans place themselves in the position of making grave decisions for animals all the time. Such as living another day or being eaten. Such as an expensive surgery or being put to death.
Animals face life, death, disease, hunger, and sexual desire without our intelligence and guidance. It is no crime to make them the beneficiaries of that intelligence. When a human feeds an animal wholesome food they could not otherwise have, he/she is praised for their compassion. When they heal a disease that would undoubtedly have led to a painful death they are showered with compliments.
Yet these acts are done with the same dumb animals who have no idea what the gravity of the situation is. Only when it comes to this one interaction sex, is that a problem; and only because a human might actually get something out of it.
Do you think an animal realizes the importance of going to the vet or being fenced in? No of course not, and no one cares about their consent then.
How ridiculous to pick on of the few things an animal could understand to some degree, one of the few things they could appreciate, and then single it out as the only thing they are not allowed to consent to.
"And to answer his question, I think horses can consent to being ridden."
Then why not sex which is far more natural to them than riding?
"What's important is whether or not animals can consent to sex"
Yes that is what is important, not mindlessly categorizing them as human children. We know they can consent to sex because they do consent to sex and that consent takes the form of cooperation and primitive yet unmistakable body and verbal communication.
"and whether or not humans should be taking sexual advantage of them."
I reject such terminology it is vague and subjective. Anyone could be said to be taking sexual advantage of another if they derive pleasure from sexual encounters with them. That is not to say that it is not a mutual pleasure or to say that they did not attain consent.
KeytarHero forfeited this round.
That is, if an organism has the power of volition, and consents to an action or interaction; what are they really consenting to? I will consider only interaction given the context.
There are three possible 'truths' (or viewpoints if you wish) about the interaction:
1. The perception of the interaction by party A.
2. The perception of the interaction by party B.
3. The complete objective reality of the interaction.
Now ideally these are all equal, that is what I mean by perfect informed consent in my OP. However that is pretty much impossible for two reasons.
First, understanding anything in the universe with complete specificity is impossible for finite minds. The truth can be known but only to a certain level of conceptualization.
Second, some component of the perception is subjective; i.e. it exists because of the interactions relation to the observer and does not objectively exist unless the observer is specified as the context.
Let me give an example using sex between two humans Jim and Sally.
They have fallen in love and are talking about having sex. However they want to make sure they give each other informed consent first.
Sally is a world class bio-chemist and an expert on human sexual biology/anatomy. Jim is an artist who grew up on a tribal island is profoundly ignorant of biology.
Sally starts off by listing off all the risks she can think of, no matter how remote. Jim gets a headache and no matter how many times she repeats the list he can't remember them all.
Jim says "you seem to understand it, if you think it's safe I'll trust you", but Sally complains that such is not informed consent but only consent. In frustration she tells him to inform her of everything she needs to know.
Jim launches into a poem about how much he loves her and what their first coupling will mean to him.
Sally thinks it's touching but complains that it is hopelessly vague.
Then they start to talk about how what the sensations would be, but they can't seem to agree on anything more than 'it will feel good'.
Sally points out that since they have different organs they will never experience the sensations the other would feel and thus can never know them since all description of sensation is relative to common experience.
This presents a 'problem of sorts' to the mindset implied by KeytarHero (Con).
Jim isn't aware of all the biological details of sex, Sally seems far more competent in that department but we must concede that her knowledge has it's limits as well.
Because of this it could be said that neither knows what they are consenting to.
Objective mechanics of the act aside, only Jim and Sally truly know what the interaction will mean and feel like to themselves, not each other.
Therefore to each person, they are accepting the consent of the other without knowing exactly how it will affect the other.
Here we see the failure of the "ignorant of what is being consented to" postulation. If any organism on this planet could be absolutely sure how an interaction would affect another, and therefore be sure that it would only be perceived as positive there would be no requirement for consent at all.
The basic premise of seeking consent is this:
"I'm not you so it's up to you to decide if this interaction is acceptable to you"
The differences in perception are no doubt greater between humans and animals, but this is a difference of degree not fundamental quality.
To a dog sex probably means little more than sticking his penis in someone and experiencing pleasure. Their knowledge of the objective mechanics of the act are very basic and that cannot be remedied.
I would be surprised if dogs or horses make the connection between sex and offspring. (not that they need to)
The exact emotions or sensations they feel is a matter of speculation.
However all of this is moot because there is no deception involved, and that is what is the real reason people talk about informed consent.
No one is trying to trick an animal, sex means and is what they think it is. Same for the human. They accept it and saying that they are not allowed to accept their own perception of the interaction negates the concept of consent.
It could just as easily be applied to any other action or interaction, not just with animals but with people too. We all consent only to our own perception of an action or interaction. We all accept only what these interactions mean to us.
KeytarHero forfeited this round.