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Sex with animals is ethically permissible

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/16/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,629 times Debate No: 28289
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
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First I would like to thank bbowhan for accepting this debate topic. I would like to additionally offer to all interested that I would be glad to debate this topic with other people. Finally, I would like to encourage bbowhan to collaborate with others n the assembly of his arguments, as per rule 8 below.

The topic of bestiality and zoophilia are questionable and oft sticky topics (pun intended), which generally produce a visceral reaction in the course of their discussion. Historically, sex with animals has been among the acts considered most obscene, an abomination above most -if not all- other things considered abominations. Despite this, there are in fact a great many things which human emotion arguably gets wrong about ethics: the human desire for revenge, forced heteronormativity, fear of change. In many people the list of emotional malfunction goes far deeper, into neuropathy, and psychopathy. Emotion is an approximation at best of "what is right", and as such, it becomes a valid question as to whether the visceral but none-the-less emotional animus against sex with animals is appropriate.

As such, this debate is to explore whether such an animus is philosophically justified, or whether that animus is something that we ought overcome.

1) First round is acceptance*, second round is argument, third round is rebuttal and additional supporting arguments, fourth round is pure rebuttal and final round is closing. Upon mutual agreement, round 5 may also include a final counter-rebuttal.
2) *CON may go first; if CON uses his first round for argument, CON agrees his last round shall be a blank post, and for the purposes of voting, rounds shall be offset by one post
3) Responses shall be directed towards the previous rounds(s) only. Round 2 "initial arguments" are to be independent.
4) No direct "vote pandering". An argument ought stand on its own, without appeals to emotion or ad hominem.
5) No "sneaky ****erism". This is defined as making declarations to win an argument rather than making an attempt to investigate whether a claim is actually valid or supported by reason. The winning argument here is to be determined as that argument which stands up to reason, not which argument/person people subjectively like more. In accepting, CON agrees that any votes which do not reflect an objective evaluation of the arguments (subjective votes) are invalid and to be ignored during final evaluation, retracted, or negated.
6) No extended arguments, except if mutually agreed upon.
7) Shared BoP; all positive claims must be defended, and all arguments must be supported with reasons; this is a philosophical debate, and first principles must be mutually accepted, if used as a basis of argument. Argument from authority, argument from tradition, and the naturalistic fallacy are all accepted as fallacies by CON.
8) Shared participation is encouraged; while there can only be one formal "PRO" and one formal "CON", any independently supported argument may be advanced and picked up by the formal debators.
9) First principles accepted in this debate must include that: "The universe exists"; "knowledge exists"; "all descriptive models have greater value than any non-descriptive model"; and that "equals OUGHT be treated equally".
10) Additional rules as presented by CON shall be discussed in comments before being accepted.


I accept and thank you for offering me this challenging debate. I will not use the first round for posting and argument, so Pro is invited to introduce his first arguments, and good luck!
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you BBOWHAN for accepting this debate. In the pursuit of clarity, I’d like to detail that the “animals” of the resolution are specifically not “people”, and further that the ethical acceptability is applying to “sex with animals”, and not some other thing that is neither necessary for, nor necessarily caused by, said sex. QUESTIONS about these distinctions are to be addressed in comments or PM.

Additionally, any claim I have made to which there is some doubt or misunderstanding, I will gladly provide additional support or clarification in my next post; my opponent has merely to ask.



Applying to an activity performed on or with a entity: Lacking informed consent.

  1. Animals have pragmatic value to People, at best
    Ethical value is the value that PEOPLE have to other PEOPLE, and all other things need only be afforded pragmatic value; without ethical value, consent of any form need not be garnered in imposition upon animals.

    1. Game theory establishes that people are optimally a community apart from other entities.
      1. Darwinian evolution is optimal with competition between individual, species, pack, and family. The extent of value to animals to each other is that of pragmatism, and thus form tribes.
      2. Memetic evolution (the type of evolution People do) is best WITHOUT competition between individuals in the group of people; people have intrinsic value to other people and optimally form a society, or a community of all people, as any person’s adaptations can be passed to and thereby benefit any other person. However the extent of value for non-people remains that of pragmatism, as animals do not contribute useful adaptations in the form of ideas.
        1. Such a difference is seen between populations of bacteria, and multi-cellular organisms: all cells in the multicellular organism form a community or collective, at which point overt competition becomes detrimental to the body.

    2. People have ethical responsibilities from the basis of first principles, which animals cannot take part in.
      1. A definition of freedom:
        1. The freedom of a person to be is the extent of all things which do not themselves do insult to another person's freedom to be.
        2. That which does such insult is not a freedom.

      2. A definition of responsibilities:
        1. We have a responsibility to all other persons who claim freedom to defend that freedom from that which would do it insult.
        2. This by its nature includes a responsibility to NOT do that which is NOT a freedom.

      3. A definition of fairness:
        1. That which we claim for ourselves as freedom must be accepted as freedom for others, or denied among the freedoms of self.

      4. In order to claim freedom, one must consent to imposition of responsibility, an acceptance of the community of people and their ethical value.
        1. Animals are functionally unable to accept or understand freedom from first principles; they lack a theory of mind, and a concept of identity, and lack the ability to ever attain it.
        2. As understanding of freedom is necessary to claim freedom, animals need never be offered freedom.

    3. People are existentially sustainable, animals are not.
      1. Evolution of memetic collectives is far faster than Darwinian evolution, which requires a new generation to imperfectly select for minute change.
      2. Such faster evolution means the ability to avoid or survive through planetary extinction events and solar reintegration, and potentially to identify such existential threats before they become imminent.
      3. As this life in this existence is all there definitely is (not to be read as “definitely all there is”), all observable meaning is tied up in the survival of life, and as survival is only likely for people and those things we retain as useful tools, it is the pragmatic value of animals which is most important, not just to us, but also to their own survival.

  2. Differences between Ethical and Pragmatic concerns

    1. This debate is not about pedophilia or the mentally disabled; such sex is questionable for ethical reasons, which are generalized for pragmatic reasons.

      1. Often in discussions such as this, attempts are made to draw connections between irrational children, and irrational adults, and irrational animals. I will gladly, at the conclusion of this debate, have an additional debate over the categorical acceptability of sex with children, but such a debate would be one-sided, in that we would be arguing between the logic which leads to “sex with children and/or the mentally disabled is unacceptable” rather than the validity of the resolution itself.

      2. My particular position on this aspect is rather threefold:
        1. Children are generally potentially future adults, with an entitlement to either a full measure of the activity required to make them free as possible from natural evil or imposition, OR a swift death. As such, the future person has the right to decide if and when they will have sex, and as such are ethically harmed by pedophiles.
        2. Children represent a devotion of resources spent to produce rational adults, and the effects of sex increase those costs, or cause them to be outright lost (through depression and suicide, for example). Even in the case of “doomed” children, there is the possibility of breakthrough preventing the doom, and thus reason to defend their rights.
        3. Sex with children is at best extremely difficult to find ethically justifiable, and thus demands the greatest amount of caution, to the extent it becomes pragmatic to treat it as if it were categorically unacceptable so as to prevent false-negatives AND false positives in identification of unethical cases.

      3. My position on the mentally disabled is similar:
        1. The “mentally disabled” may actually have all the necessary qualities of a person, and thus be a person, and it is difficult to ascertain the “edge cases”; giving them the benefit of the doubt with ethical treatment is preferable to violating the ethical rights of a person, and so necessitates requiring what seems as informed consent in such instances.
        2. The mentally disabled may have pragmatic value as independent operators in society (as “property” of society), and as such that value that society has is potentially damaged or destroyed through such activity. Such is made clear by the fact that the mentally deficient generally have legal guardians.
        3. Sex with such people-shaped-animals after accurate identification is generally allowed, when the legal guardian of such a person allows it to happen, though not with the legal guardian for rightful reasons of conflict-of-interest.

    2. Sex with animals is questionable for exclusively pragmatic concerns, and generally those are easily resolved.
      1. Differentiation by species is easily accomplished.
      2. Animals will never “grow up” into persons.
      3. IF it is ever the case that animal-shaped-people become a reality, then pragmatic concerns may arise; however it does not affect the ethical acceptability of sex with animals, merely the pragmatism of allowing it.

  3. Argument from Common Sense

    1. It is common sense that imposition on animals is generally allowed
      1. We allow clearly sexual imposition such as castration, molestation, masturbation, forced sexual coupling, and manual fertilization (with devices or with hands); nonconsensual sex with them for OUR gratification is no different.
      2. We allow much more grisly things like killing, breaking, knocking, tying down, trapping, keeping captive, and poisoning; mere sex is nothing next to that.

    2. Treating animals ethically produces an existential threat to people
      1. We need to be able to feed ourselves; imposition has been and continues to be necessary to do that.
      2. We need to be able to defend ourselves; imposition has been and continues to be necessary to do that.

  4. Conclusion
    1. Ethics are clearly for people, not animals.
    2. Pragmatic unacceptability is different from ethical unacceptability.
    3. Common sense dictates that imposition upon animals is acceptable and even necessary for existence of people.
    4. Therefore, having sex with animals is ethically permissible.



I"d like to thank my opponent for this debate, and especially his excellent organization of points. I will start by asking Pro to clarify his clarification: Is he asserting that people are fundamentally different from other animals (as in possession of a "soul" or a definite distinction in thought)? If so, an anatomical basis for that would be useful.

Pros I. Animals have pragmatic value to People, at best

Pros A>
I am not aware of any aspect of game theory that purports to establish "people are optimally a community apart from other entities" and I will vehemently disagree with the assertion both in terms of societal health and in particular this subject. After all, sex with animals will not be an issue under such strict segregation as Pro implies.
1. Stipulated. Perhaps the final word word "tribes" could be broadened to "communities"?
2. Here there is a problem- memetic evolution is at best a metaphor, as the "meme" is not actually a unit in an evolutionary sense [1]. Further, cultural evolution, like all evolutions is by nature competitive in a direct biological way- rich successful rock stars versus a struggling street performer for example. It is true that animal have little direct contribution to culture, but their presence as companions cannot be termed a negative. Also, this topic on pragmatic value has little to do with the ethical question, as Pro has not yet demonstrated an "is therefore ought" connection.

Pros B> People have ethical responsibilities from the basis of first principles, which animals cannot take part in.
1. Definition of freedom: stipulated
2. Definition of responsibilities
Here Pro overextends his definition, in that he claims that is a person's responsibility to defend others freedom as well as his own. It is superior ethics to do so, but not a responsibility.
3. Definition of fairness: Stipulated, and quite good.
4. The claim of freedom:
i. Here, Pro is wrong for the first time. Different animals are well known to have widely varying concepts of identity and theory of mind [2]- which is good from Pros point of view, as otherwise the tricky concept of consensual bestiality could not be addressed.
ii. I"m just going to assume that Pro has no analogue to my experiences with horse corralling, were "offering" freedom to an unaware, fleshy automation with no concept of personal liberty was obviously not the issue.

Pros C> People are existentially sustainable, animals are not.
This entire paragraph is of topic. In the unlikely event of a global pandemic or asteroid collision, we may be able to survive- including taking sufficient living foodstuffs past the crisis to sustain us. In either event, the permissibility of sex with animals is not related.

Pros II Difference between Ethical and Pragmatic Concerns:

Pros A> "debate is not about pedophilia or the mentally disabled". I'll stipulate to that as well. Hey look at that, three entire paragraphs we both agree belong in another debate!

Pros B> This is actually the question at hand, which I hold has not been sufficiently addressed.
1 and 2. These statements seem to be flatly contradictory, in fact I think I must not understand these points- unless Pro is arguing that Reason and Ethics are subjects forbidden forever to all other animals? [3] If so he is wrong, both as far as the far as the future is concerned (an excellent SF series on Uplifting is available from David Brin's Uplift and right now. Having known (as I alluded to) a large variety of farm animals up close, I find it impossible to credit the claim that animals don"t have such feelings as we do. Unlike our intellect, there is not even a discernible difference between our emotional [4] and moral [5] capabilities and those of several different species, rather far apart cladistically.

Pros III Argument from Common Sense
Pros A:
1. The impositions of fertilization may not be different from one of gratification, which unfortunately for Pro, opens the question of whether artificial insemination is part of an ethically abhorrent "sex with animals" topic.
2. Again, a very fundamental "is ought" problem is not being addressed. Even if sex approaches "nothing" in the spectrum of human cruelty to animals, Pro has not given a rationale why a lesser evil is somehow not evil.
Pros B:
1. It is a simple fact that humans use animals for food, however that is subsumed by the fact that all animals eat other living things- by definition that"s what animals are. That impositions is axiomatically necessary by the dictates of survival. However, the existence of vegetarianism is a proof that that we don"t need to eat animals- again raising the specter of whether we should.
2. Stipulated, but again pointless. Defending ourselves is not anywhere near the question of whether we can commit an offense against an animal. One question, though- would and animal have a right to defend itself against a rape?

IV. Pros conclusions
A. Ethics are NOT shown to be for people alone and I hold that the opposing argument is more compelling [6]
B. I'll stipulate to this, but note again' that ethical acceptability is is not shown by the arguments so far.
C. Some imposition may be acceptable by necessity (not demonstrated so far) but I deny the ethics of adding anything to that necessity by choice.
D. Having sex with animals is not ethically permissible.
Debate Round No. 2


I'd like to point out to CON rules 1 and 3 of the debate. Wait until "round 3" to bring rebuttal. CON will see a counter-rebuttal, but not until "round 4", and not until after CON raises his rebuttal in "round 3". I will not waste my time and space on actual counter-rebuttal here; that is not what this space is for, and I have no responsibiliy to do so until then.
  1. Animals have pragmatic value to People, at best
    1. More on game theory
      cause of the lack of any thing that may be considered a soul, evolutionary strategies are relevant to the discussion of what beings may have value.
      1. For Darwinian evolvers , their evolutionary strategy necessitates death; it cannot be divorced from the cycle of "1) have children with mutations, 2) organisms compete over resources 3) losers die 4) winners return to step (1)" by which the Darwinian survival strategy is played. Darwinian evolution requires the spread of "neutral" and beneficial mutations in populations, which only happens when the older generation dies and makes way for the younger generation; without this expected death, any significant change in the environmet constitutes an existential threat, and overpopulation itself becomes an existential threat. Critters which evolve primarily in the Darwinian mode cannot and must not realize the first and most basic freedom to be, and extending it to them without fully making them people is an insult to what they are. Without an after-life, however, only their external effect on the world is relevant to their species or any other species. As such animals have only pragmatic value.
      2. For memetic evolvers, death is neither necessary or beneficial. The unit of evolution is the idea, which is the DNA of memetics, and any organism or entity able to understand that idea may benefit from that adaptation. If one person has a good idea, all people can benefit without the need for any death. In this way, they ideally form a community where the ideas compete, and the people do not. As a rational goal of people is to prevent death, and as this life is all we have, it then becomes important to guarantee freedom. As such, people have intrinsic value to themselves which does no insult to the survivability of the community of people, and thus people have every responsibility to accept the intrinsic value of other people as equals ought be treated equally
    2. More on ethics
      As my opponent has called into question my basis for stipulating that freedom necessitates responsibilities...
      1. As equals ought be treated equally, if an entity wishes for itself freedom to be they must wish too for others of an equal existence to enjoy that same freedom to be. If they seek to defend their freedom from imposition (ie, if they wish to claim their freedom), as equals ought be treated equally, they ought defend the freedom of others. This ought implies responsibility. Rejecting the first moral rule, that equals ought be treated equally, further forces a rejection of the logic of freedom and responsibility; they are not simply axiomatic but derived from the shared first principles of this debate.
    3. More on existential sustainability
      1. Simply put, if people find use for animals in relieving our sex drives, it is a fundamental good for animals, as we then have a reason to save them when we save ourselves from some existential threat.
  2. The difference between ethics and pragmatism
    1. Defense against special pleading
      A popular retreat of those seeking to argue against the ethical acceptability of sex with animals is the inevitable comparison between it and pedophilia; Without a discussion of why pedophilia is to be considered unacceptable, the relevant difference between it and beastiality cannot be ascertained, hence why even though this debate is not about pedophilia, I retain a burden of proof to establish that these two cases are different, provided that I do not want to endorse the unrestricted rape of children, and thus the discussion on pedophilia is necessary for my case.
    2. On the pragmatism of sex with animals
      1. While it may be possible in the future that there will be people who are indistinguishable from animals, this is not that day. No animal that is alive today is capable of growing up into a person. Any pragmatic objection to sex with either animals or consensual sex with the animal-shaped-people is an objection on purely pragmatic terms and has no bearing on the ethical acceptability of sex with animals. As such, an objection on those grounds has no bearing on the resolution.
      2. Any further objections that CON brings are appeals to emotion. I have not claimed that animals don't feel, merely that it doesn't matter whether or not they feel (Unless, of course, CON accepts the other side of the coin of his argument and acknowledges that sex with animals can make them feel good). Unless CON can establish that the internal emotional state of some animal is of some relevance such objections are and continue to be red herrings, particularly due to the necessity of death for said animals.
  3. On common sense
    1. The special pleading of CON
      This particlar point was in fact a basis from which to argue that CON has a burden of special pleading which he needs to address. He has made claims that imposition upon animals is evil in the slaughterhouse, on the farm, that even so much as owning a pet or milking a cow might be considered evil but has yet to forward any suitable argument as to why those things might be considered evil; I have certainly met my burden to demonstrate why they are not.
    2. On the necessity of imposition
      1. "That [I]mpositions is axiomatically necessary by the dictates of survival." "[A]ll animals eat other living things- by definition that"s what animals are." both are admissions that people must eat, and that imposition is necessary. Further, while he has mentioned vegetarianism, he still has yet to provide evidence that humanity can surivive against existential threats as a society of vegans as only veganism (and not vegarianism) seeks to end imposition upon animals. If animals are justified in eating each other, we are justified in eating them, and as eating (and in so doing, killing) them is the greatest possible insult to any entitlement to a purported freedom to be, then no animal life at all except for entirely passive plant eaters would be justified, and we might as well just execute ourselves and every predator in existence as ethical criminals right now.
      2. In terms of defense, we have eradicated or attempted to eradicate [1] various animals which are existenial threats to humanity and defended ourselves in other ways not from clear and present danger, but also from possible danger or out of mere inconvenience. We kill whole populations of rodents and insects, and are willing to escalate to killing various animals for mere tresspass or convenience or because they might make us sick. We defend our deer population (which we keep to hunt!), and our human population in light of the over-blown deer population by engaging in wolf harvests not because they have attacked our children and livestock or made us able to hunt but because they might do those things. CON must either argue to damn these activities, or accept that they are ethical and along with them accept that imposition of sex with animals is equally acceptable.
  4. Conclusions
    CON has yet to provide any argument in favor of his ethical principles, or even detail what those principles are. He has not argued his accepted claim that sex with animals is ethically impermissible, IE that some necessary causal relationship exists between "sex with animals" and some ethically impermissible activity.
    1. Ethics are clearly for people, not animals.
    2. Pragmatic unacceptability is diffrent from ethical unacceptability.
    3. Common sense dictates that imposition upon animals is acceptable and even necessary for the existence of people.
    4. Therefore having sex with animals is ethically permissible.





bbowhan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


CON has forfeit. I will refrain from posting anything else, pending his return.



As I mentioned in the comments, time has caught up with me and I cant fnish this debate. Please send votes to Pro, and again I apologize.
Debate Round No. 4


see above


bbowhan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by bbowhan 3 years ago
I'm sorry, I have no time. I must regretfully forfeit this debate. Please deliver votes to Pro, as I cannot find time to continue through this week.
Posted by bbowhan 3 years ago
I must apologize to Pro- right as I was accepting this debate, my schedule exploded. I will try to fulfill my obligation here, but I cannot make any guarantees. Also my arguments will necessarily be terse. Again, I apologize.
No votes have been placed for this debate.