Misuse of “Can Animals Consent?” Article

Trigger warning: animal abuse, sexual abuse, bestiality

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A friend and colleague brought to my attention today that someone on Twitter (@ZooPropaganda) has used my original 2018 article, Can Animals Consent?, to justify human adults having sex with adult animals (June 24, 2021). In keeping with the point of the article, I DO NOT CONSENT to my article being used for this intention and request that my article be removed from any pro-bestiality social media posts, promotional materials, or other propaganda immediately.

The following is my official response to this misuse and complete misinterpretation of the article.

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Thanks for bringing this to my attention. People will sadly twist anything to suit their purposes.

The article referred to animals consenting (or not) to involvement in activities for human benefit, such as animal-assisted therapy, yoga on horseback, various equestrian disciplines, and so on. The article has nothing whatsoever to do with animals consenting to sex with humans. Interpreting it this way is taking massive liberties with it and also taking it way out of context.

The article is about consent/assent and dissent in animals and how we need to pay attention to the subtle cues of yes and no to ensure we are not exploiting them for our benefit. Mammals – humans included – can become submissive and compliant to do things they don’t want to do in order to prevent further harm, and this includes rape. Submission and shut down in the face of danger and life threat are survival responses. Calm does not equal consent. A body mechanically responding with arousal and orgasm to unwanted sexual stimulation is not consent. Full stop.

Ultimately, there cannot be true consent when there is a power differential to this extent (hence the reference to animals assenting as opposed to consenting), which is why children and animals cannot consent to sex with human adults. Children cannot legally consent, and neither can animals; I used the word “consent” in the article to refer to choice and agency and the ability to say yes or no. Animals live in a human-dominated world and as much as I promote the importance of animals having choice and agency, at the end of the day they lack the same power that humans have. It is up to human adults to use their power carefully and to be protectors, not violators, of vulnerable beings. That is the point of the article. How this was missed is beyond me.

I’m saddened that this even needs to be explained, and hope that this response doesn’t further become twisted to suit a reprehensible agenda.


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