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Why is bestiality so disgusting? From a utilitarian point of view, zoophilia is no more immoral than eating meat

Is this a consenting horse?


June 29, 2021   6 mins

One of the most memorable recent online dramas was the “I want to have sex with a horse” incident. Don’t worry, no one had sex with a horse, at least as far as I know. But a woman did describe in fairly graphic terms about a fantasy of what she’d like to do in the company of a horse 1 (a willing horse, she says, crucially).

Anyway, the usual boring straitlaced prudes on Twitter got on her case about it. And the poor woman became that day’s Twitter sacrificial lamb, or foal. “Yup, that bestiality tweet was a mistake,” she tweeted later on, sadly, having deleted the original. “I’ll never talk about it again.”

It was interesting, because at one point she made a pretty unanswerable point: unless you’re a vegetarian, you haven’t really got a leg to stand on here. “The fact is,” she said, “you’re being inconsistent if you’re fine with killing and eating non-human animals while opposing sex with non-human animals. They didn’t consent to being killed and eaten yet you’re perfectly fine with it.”

Jonathan Haidt, in his book The Righteous Mind, talks about a phenomenon called “moral dumbfounding”. That is: when something is disgusting, and you want to say that it’s immoral, but you can’t think of a reason why it’s immoral. So you end up simply saying it just is. One example he gives is of a man going to the shops and buying an oven-ready chicken. That evening, before cooking it, he has sex with it. Then he cooks it and eats it. Is that immoral? Apologies if you’re having chicken for dinner, by the way.

Most of us want to say yes, it is immoral. But most of us – especially those of us in the West, and on the left-liberal side of politics – think of morality in terms of whether someone is harmed, oppressed or cheated. And when you’re making love to a dead chicken and then eating it – who is harmed? The chicken? You feel that as far as the chicken is concerned, the worst has already happened. The man eats the chicken himself, so he’s not inflicting violated chicken on anyone – and it’s properly cooked, so no risk of diseases! Who is the victim here?

Disgust is a moral emotion. (I can feel my wife’s moral disapproval when I put mayonnaise on pizza.) But we have, in the West, somewhat separated our sense of morality from our sense of disgust. It is not enough to say “that is wrong because it is disgusting”: you have to say “it is wrong because of [these reasons], and the fact that I am also disgusted by it is an entirely separate and coincidental thing.” 

In the case of the woman fantasising about the horse, the responders were saying things like “It’s wrong because of a lack of consent” or “we evolved to eat other animals”. They were trying to find reasons other than that is disgusting. But those reasons don’t stand up: she had already stipulated that the horse was willing – the horse had consented. That’s right there in the premise of the thought experiment. It’s a fantasy: if horses can’t consent, then she won’t shag one. (Philosophers need to live in the Least Convenient Possible World!)

And the “we evolved to eat them” argument is a straightforward case of the naturalistic fallacy. You can’t get an ought from an is – just because something is natural doesn’t make it right. However you look at it, one suspects that the horse would rather be allowed to have sex with a woman if it chose to, than be chopped up and put in Tesco beefburgers

The trouble is that following our moral reasoning all the way through is often extremely uncomfortable. In the case of a woman tweeting fantasies about sex with a horse, it’s merely funny; but in other cases, it leads us into genuinely difficult areas.

For instance, Richard Dawkins recently got in trouble for saying on a radio programme that aborting foetuses at risk of various disabilities, including Down’s syndrome, was morally acceptable: he said that it might plausibly “increase the amount of happiness in the world”.

I should specify that he was rowing back an earlier comment, from 2014, that it was immoral not to terminate those pregnancies; but again, it hits some deeply uncomfortable note, and we want to say this is immoral. We picture a real child with learning disabilities; we hear from parents of children with those disabilities. We are outraged and disgusted.

But if we are pro-choice, as I am, then Dawkins’ position is implicit. Abortion is already legal in cases of likely foetal abnormality, and 90% of prenatal diagnoses of Down’s lead to termination. It is the woman’s choice, of course: but their choice is presumably made on the basis that either they expect the child would not lead a fulfilling life, or that they expect the cost to their own wellbeing and happiness would be too great. And we (those of us who are pro-choice, anyway) already agree with that. Dawkins merely said the quiet part out loud.

Our visceral reactions drive our moral decisions far more than we might want to admit: for Haidt, the reasoning part of us is usually just coming up with socially acceptable justifications for our emotional gut reactions, a presidential press secretary rather than a policymaker. (As the Matt Hancock scandal was breaking, a friend got in touch to say that he thought a lot of the reason why people were so appalled was because they were sexually disgusted at the idea of being kissed by Matt Hancock, and the rest of it flowed from there.)

According to Haidt, many non-Western or non-liberal people find it easier to say why things that disgust them are immoral: they have a wider sense of what is moral than just “does it harm people?” or “is it fair?” They might appeal to traditions (“not shagging horses was good enough for my father, and his father before him!”) or the disapproval of the community, or simply say this is not what is done

But Western liberals – or more accurately, members of the group known as Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic, WEIRD – need to rationalise out their disgust. Leon Kass, the philosopher, argued in 1997 that we have lost something as a result: that disgust should guide our moral judgments. People getting disgusted at the cloning of Dolly the Sheep or other technological efforts to play god, he says, are “warning us not to transgress what is unspeakably profound … Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder.” 

And remember, Haidt says that WEIRD liberals tend to think of morality in terms of whether someone is harmed, and in terms of fairness, while non-WEIRD people and non-liberals are more likely to care about other concerns — authority, sanctity and loyalty. And he thinks that liberals should be willing to adopt those broader moral “tastes”: that if, for instance, liberal politicians want to win more votes, they will need to be able to talk to voters in those terms. For instance, they might want to appeal to the moral tastes of authority and loyalty by talking about patriotism; or they might want to appeal to a moral taste of sanctity by imposing strict penalties on sex offenders.

Haidt may be right on the practical aspect, but Kass is wrong on the moral front. We are sometimes disgusted by things that are immoral – but often we are not. People used to be disgusted by same-sex relationships or interracial marriage; most of us are now not. The disgust response was, in some sense, wrong. The work of moral philosophy is to work out, as dispassionately as possible, what is wrong and what is right: it is a difficult task, but not a completely fruitless one, in that most of us would agree that we have made moral progress in some sense over the last few millennia. 

Emotions like disgust can call our attention to things — we feel disgusted when someone laughs at a homeless person – but they are not reliable guides to what is and isn’t moral. It is worth understanding what drives moral decisions – to understand that some people are disgusted or outraged by things that we don’t, intellectually, think are immoral – but that doesn’t make those moral decisions correct. I can have mayonnaise on my god-damn pizza. You can shag that oven-ready chicken, if you want, although I wouldn’t tell the neighbours. 

And the fact that we are usually not disgusted by the systematic breeding and killing of animals for our food, and yet we are disgusted by the idea of a woman having sex with a consenting horse, is not necessarily a useful way of finding out which is actually more immoral. 

In fact, I will go on record here and say that, yes, morally, it is worse to have animals tortured and eaten than it is to allow them to have sex with you. I’m a hypocrite on this — I do the former most weeks, and the latter only at birthdays and Christmases — but still, I think it is true.

FOOTNOTES
  1. Click here if you want to read it, but be aware that it is quite, you know, detailed.

Tom Chivers is a science writer. His second book, How to Read Numbers, is out now.

TomChivers

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Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

I can’t imagine the appeal of sexual interhorse.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

There’s always a neigh-sayer

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I agree, they just do it to stirrup trouble

Al M
Al M
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

It’s their mane motivation.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Al M

You’re making these up on the hoof.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I bridle at that suggestion

Al M
Al M
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I’m saddled with it

Last edited 3 years ago by Al M
Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Al M

All of you are zoos.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

…so it’s not the mane attraction then.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

You are a zoo too.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

That is, you, not another. Don’t control others likes with your own likes. That is being mean.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

You mean the opposite to what you are saying.

George Glashan
George Glashan
3 years ago

“People used to be disgusted by same-sex relationships or interracial marriage; most of us are now not. ”
that most is doing a lot of work. China, the middle east, Africa, eastern europe, south america, or you know… not most

good article though, definitely didn’t expect my day to begin with bestiality

Last edited 3 years ago by George Glashan
Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  George Glashan

That’s ludicrous. Homosexuality is legal South America and has been legal for a lot longer than in the U.K. by decades or centuries. Most of South America has gay marriage.

The exception is parts of South America/Caribbean colonised by the British empire.

Last edited 3 years ago by Franz Von Peppercorn
Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
3 years ago

Africa, Middle East

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  Lillian Fry

Not sure if that’s a response to my response because I didn’t mention either.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  George Glashan

Jacob married his sister. The church needs to own their eyes. I opened the eyes of people. Males and females will be married to Jesus in the marrage supper of the Lamb. Males and females who are saved are one with Jesus thus are married to his Spirit. People are sexual. A righteous man considers the life of the beast. A righteous man will consider the life of a human, too. Both are mammals.

Matthew Baker
Matthew Baker
3 years ago

The key takeaway, which the article strays from near the end, is that morality must have some sense of aught rather than just is. As Alasdair McIntyre convincingly argued, the loss of teleology leaves morality on unstable and vanishing ground.

Unfortunately near the end the article goes back into insinuating the “WEIRD” sense of morality is actually right and other views are mere superstition, which is disappointing. Just because disgust is an insufficient guide to morality doesn’t mean there isn’t something beyond rationality within which morality must be based. We very clearly shouldn’t base moral calculation on disgust alone. But without teleology of some sort the project of moral philosophy is intellectually fraught.

Tom Chivers
Tom Chivers
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Baker

For the record, I wasn’t trying to insinuate it but to outright say it: the WEIRD morality, or at least the idea that there IS a morality separate from what disgusts us, is correct. It has to be otherwise you’re only navigating on what makes you feel good and bad at any time. I don’t think it’s perfectly knowable through rationality, but without rationality, our intuitive yuck/yum instincts are of little use. That said I suspect we’re saying the same thing but with different emphases.
And teleology seems completely mad to me, although I admit that evolution creates a sort of simulacrum of teleology so that animals and people do have apparent purpose, and perhaps that’s what’s meant.

Matthew Baker
Matthew Baker
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Chivers

Fair enough, I agree disgust is far from sufficient to base morality upon so I suspect we’re coming at the same point.

As for teleology, I suppose it depends on the premise you start from and the first principles you are willing to accept. Even for a strict materialist though, I think there is an argument to be made for a soft form at least of purpose, based upon the inherent limitations of a thing or person and the conception of the whole and the person’s place within it. But a comment section is not the best place for getting too in depth.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Baker

The account of human evolution provided by spiritual history reveals that visceral disgust, horror, recoil and similar gut reactions have their origin in the response of the human part of us to the animal part in those ancient times when the divine spirit first incarnated in an animal body. It’s the same with instinctive reactions such as psychic shame, which causes an automatic physical blush, which results from increased blood flow.
We have here two parts of the human being coming together: the instinctual animal response, and the thinking/feeling human response. So yes, disgust is a reliable psychic response to a biological body-connected indicator of something important in the sphere of morality, which our higher selves are then supposed to work on consciously.

Last edited 3 years ago by Penelope Lane
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Er, what is spiritual history? Perhaps the history of seances?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

There is secular history and there is spiritual history.
Secular history is produced using those faculties available to us in the ordinary, physical world: our ordinary intellect, feelings, etc. It may be about things spiritual, but it is written out of a secular standpoint, from the outside, as it were. An example might be someone like Richard Dawkins, who writes about the history of religion from a secular standpoint. The academic field of “history of religion” is secular in this sense.
Spiritual history is the account of human and cosmic origins and evolution written out of spiritual worlds, that is, from a standpoint within spiritual worlds. It is an insider’s account. This sort of history is written, of necessity, by initiates, that is, by people who have trained and awakened hitherto dormant spiritual faculties of perception, These spiritual faculties enable them to see objectively in spiritual worlds. There, everything that has ever happened is inscribed. An outstanding modern example of a spiritual historian would be Dr Rudolf Steiner, who taught out of the western spiritual tradition, and whose teachings are Christ-based.
A comparative example of secular/spiritual history might be taken from the Christian New Testament gospels.
The gospel of Matthew focusses on Jesus the man; it traces an external genealogy back to Abraham, and is written out of physical-world consciousness.
The gospel of John, by contrast, is an initiate text, focussing on the Eternal “I Am”, the Cosmic Christ. It was written out of an exalted spiritual state. So “The Word” in this gospel has an esoteric, spiritual meaning relating to divine creation; it is quite distinct from the ordinary “words” we use in our everyday speech.
My work is based in Steiner’s teachings so mostly I draw on him. In relation to séances, he teaches explicitly that all forms of hypnotism are atavistic and regressive. A séance utilises a form of psychism which involves the medium giving up personal ego control and allowing consciousness to be directed by external entities, which invade and take possession. This puts the medium in danger of taking on the defects of the visiting spirits. And it weakens ego strength, which is critical to health in modern society. Manifestations obtained are usually low-level and very often entirely unreliable.
Finding the right language in which to discuss these things is always a problem today, but in the case of hypnotism, it is probably best to think of it as a form of low psychism, as opposed to genuine higher spiritual striving.
Steiner has in fact given a “spiritual history” of mediumism and hypnotic trance states in his account of the nineteenth-century development of the spiritualism movement. In this spiritual history, Steiner traces the real occult forces directing things behind the scenes, and the manipulating of hapless mediums for the egotistical ends of these grey brotherhoods.
Hope this helps. Thanks for the question!

andy young
andy young
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

The spiritual world you describe may or may not exist However unless & until it provides a testable predictive theory in the material world it is indistinguishable from fantasy.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  andy young

The battle is for the mind. The battle is in the unseen

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Religon will be pure and undefiled, or it will be abominable. jamies 1:26 – 27, KJV. They that are not spotted with the world will be like Jesus who has a kingdom that is not of the world. Christ was in the Indians obeying seek and find. People who came here were spiritually blind. The Indians had charity. 1 Corinthians 13:4 – 7, KJV. Indians had no idea about giving things they did not want anymore. Indians gave the best to whoever.
So called visiting spirits are evil. They impersonate the dead.
Christ based? Law as we know them would not exist. People would be given peace that the world cannot give.
Jesus was seen by Moses and Aberham. Jesus is God’s physical form having blood in it untill resurrected.
Occult minds came here in 1492. They brought money.

Last edited 2 years ago by Artie Fox
Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Jesus was God with blood in him. Jesus acquired blood when he was born, even as we are born. Satan is the shame giver through a person. Chain that being when you resist that being.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Baker

Jesus is our example of morality. Jesus was peacful with people who had no control of when they died; not having any control of when they rose again.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Chivers

But even if morality must rely on more than disgust, can it ever actively repudiate disgust without hollowing itself out?

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Disgust is already hollowed out. There is nothing good in it. Empty minded devils are disgusted with all that God made. Disgust will disappear like smoke when people see that.

Last edited 2 years ago by Artie Fox
Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Baker

Unstable people don’t consider how they are compared to Jesus. Jesus edified people who were like him. Jesus was perfect condemning no one when he was on the earth. They that have disgust are they that harbor an imperfect devil in them. That devil has no peace in them. They are constantly offended. They are not able to keep the laws that Jesus kept.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
3 years ago

Animals can’t consent, and domesticated ones are trained and conditioned to trust humans. It’s animal abuse.

The ‘rationalisations’ put forward by those into this sort of thing are indistinguishable from those of paedophiles.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

It is not for us to judge – condemn. People who insist on condeming are they that need to be condemned. Words are not needed to say yes. Jesus the judge knows who is like him and who is not like him. Be like Jesus. He was not in conflict with anyone. People were in conflict with him, like Left people who are against Trump. There is no saving power in condemning even when you are condemning pedophilia people.

Last edited 2 years ago by Artie Fox
Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago

Once sex is divorced from procreation, there is no moral reason to object to any form it might take; we’re simply in the realms of taste, an altogether different thing.
Of course, she might have given birth to a centaur…

Last edited 3 years ago by Andrew D
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Unfortunately, your statement is not supported by the facts. You assume that the Old Testament teaching linking sex to procreation is where it all begins and ends.
Sex linked to procreation as we have known it so far is but the first part of the human evolutionary journey, however.
Initiate spiritual teaching, which is based in actual insight into spiritual worlds and hence knowledge of both past and future—this teaching tells us that in a relatively short time, over the next two thousand years or so, humans will begin to reproduce themselves differently. And morality never ceases to apply to sex on whatever level.
According to the teachings of Dr Rudolf Steiner, Jehovah’s procreative sex, involving physical bloodlines and heredity, was but the first stage in teaching primitive humans about how to love. The positive evolutionary trajectory henceforth is to learn how to love ever better. Love thy neighbour as thyself. This has nothing at all to do with something as superficial as personal taste, but rather it concerns weighty personal choices about whether or not to evolve into something better.

Last edited 3 years ago by Penelope Lane
Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

If you say so Penny!

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

To evolve into somthing better is to be reborn. They that are reborn will be like Jesus who gives people rest. People can relax their presence. Laws make people to be tense no matter what. People are fearful of prying eyes.

Last edited 2 years ago by Artie Fox
Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Be divorced from Satan. They will not be born of fornication like Christs enemies, legal system, and Sodom and Gomorrah people. Gays cannot make vast cities.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
3 years ago

I have long suspected there is a battle cumming (if you will excuse the pun).
I quite enjoy computer games, and have been amazed by the advance in computer graphics over the last few decades. To demonstrate how far graphics card manufacturers have come they usually release tech demo’s, often depicting how well they can reproduce believable human avatars (read, extremely difficult, the closer you get the more little things become down right creepy). They have, never the less, become extremely god (typo, but too good to change), and it will only improve from here.
Some people, are odd, and get turned on by weird stuff (I suspect, even what most might consider, really weird stuff, is probably fairly pedestrian, yawn, middle of the road for some (I once made the error of looking up latex, spandex, or PVC vacuum bags, or some such. Bye Eck ! That was an eye opener and a half). Anyway, I digress. I am fascinated, however, by the whole moral argument around what it is, or isn’t, permissible to do in the digital world. Nobody gets harmed, after all, if it is only a collection of zeros and ones. Are rape fantasy’s ok, and what about piedaphillia ? As disgusting as these things might be, to the vast majority, if it is only a computer avatar, is it really wrong, or is it simply the idea of it is wrong and why ? And if it allowed, a fringe element, to work out their private fantasy’s without harm to others, is that such a bad thing ( Does graphic computer violence lead to real violence) ?
I don’t pretend to have the answer, but I suspect it’s a conversation we are going to have to have, in the not too distant future. If no one, or thing, is harmed, is a private fantasy (however weird) anyone else’s business ?
I hasten to add, I don’t support rape, or piedaphillia, I am quite comfortable however with bludgeoning a realistic human avatar to death in numerous gruesome ways, without the slightest compunction, or urge, to do the same in real life. I can separate fantasy from reality.

Last edited 3 years ago by Tom Lewis
Julia H
Julia H
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Is piedaphilia being attracted to a black and white horse?

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Cum is very good, in more ways than one. It is wrong to not be like Jesus. A violent mind will make what they see as being a good thing. What is in the heart will be spoken. What is on the mind will be expressed in other ways, like computer games. Evil is seen as being outside of them. Evil needs to be out of us. Physical might cannot get rid of evil that is not seen.
A person’s sexual fantasies are no one’s buissnes. Mind your own buissness working with your own hands. Each individual determines how their end will be. How they are will determine what their eternal end will be. Eternal body and soul life, or eternal body and soul death.

Last edited 2 years ago by Artie Fox
Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
3 years ago

It is not enough to say “that is wrong because it is disgusting”: you have to say “it is wrong because of [these reasons], and the fact that I am also disgusted by it is an entirely separate and coincidental thing.”

Separate, but not usually coincidental. I think that most people would conclude that they are disgusted with the thing because they believe it is wrong — should they change their beliefs about what is wrong, or discover that they have made some sort of conceptual mistake — as when a vegetarian thinks that a faux-fur coat is made from actual dead animal skins — they would expect their disgust to go away as well.
Of course, there are those who will keep the disgust and have to find new reasons for it to still be wrong — nobody should be wearing coats that look like dead animals because that gives tacit approval to the furrier industry — and maybe that is just a rationalisation, but it could also point to a new truth that had otherwise been hidden.
But it is not clear how close moral disgust is to other sorts of disgust. Disgust is usually, but not always learned. Some very small children, whom you would think have not had a chance to learn to be disgusted with blood are disgusted all the same when they see a classmate bleeding. But just one child in daycare announcing that ‘carrots are disgusting’ can be enough to turn the entire group into carrot-refusers, who find the taste disgusting. They’ve learned it from each other. But I don’t think it comes with any moral beliefs about carrots and carrot farming.

John McGibbon
John McGibbon
3 years ago

I can’t recall who made the comment “Fur coats are worn by ugly animals and beautiful women”, but some people are probably disgusted by that and others reflect ruefully that it’s probably true.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago

Money that can me in 1492 drives the fur and clothing industry.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago

Whether it is morally acceptable or not, I don’t want to have s e x with an animal no matter how gorgeous she is.

Last edited 3 years ago by Terry Needham
Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Or he.

John Tyler
John Tyler
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Or they

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

That is your choice. Let others have their choice. A moral person will be like Jesus. A moral person will not be like people who wanted Jesus to be dead.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
3 years ago

Thank God Tom got onto a something he is more suited to.

When Jennifer Hawkins was heading back home to Holmesville NSW Australia about 20 years ago, locals put up a big sign on the pub saying, ‘Holmesville. Home of Jennifer Hawkins.’ However it was noted that when a local was caught having sex with a horse, no such sign appeared. So I think bestiality still has a way to go, but is obviously the next progressive vanguard.

Last edited 3 years ago by Karl Juhnke
Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Karl Juhnke

Jesus did not think caught. His enemies thought in that way.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

Do WEIRDoes agree that it’s OK to be disgusted by them?
Asking for a friend

Christopher Gelber
Christopher Gelber
3 years ago

“Making love to a dead chicken”. That’s why I subscribe to UnHerd, right there. You won’t read that sentence anywhere else. Ever. Except perhaps on Zena O’Brien’s Twitter thread, but I suspect chickens don’t quite do it for her …

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago

I remember, back in my student days, being told of a court case of a man accused of having s e x with a duck, but no one knowing what, specifically, he had accomplished with that duck.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Court uses Satan’s form of judging.

Julia H
Julia H
3 years ago

It’s priceless. I enjoyed the distinction between merely using it to aid ejaculation and ‘making love’ to it, as though there could be some reciprocal enjoyment.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago

The Individual needs to evaluate themselves. A righteous man considers the life of the beast.

Philip May
Philip May
3 years ago

TY. Lmao

Earl King
Earl King
3 years ago

I think this is one of the most fascinating essays I have ever read. I am disgusted….but I don’t think the essay is immoral.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Earl King

Agreed, the essay is not immoral. Many of the comments in response to it here are immoral, though.

Al M
Al M
3 years ago

There is a degree of confusion here around whether eating animals is worse than having (it seems either consensual or non-consensual) sex with them, and why our society views bestiality as a transgressive act in itself. It’s better to separate the two (double-entendre unintended).
Whilst no anthropologist, I cannot think of any societies where bestiality was or is revered and in general practice (I am sure some pedant might correct me, however). The reason it is viewed as a transgressive act, when you move beyond the thought experiment into actual practice, is that it is a manifestation of other, more serious problems in the human protagonist. Much like normalising begging on the grounds of not ‘othering’ people, in reality this leads to more disregard for and neglect of the genuinely vulnerable.

Last edited 3 years ago by Al M
Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Al M

Money causes begging. Jesus ate with sinners. Jesus did not then say I caught you imprisoning them. That would have made Jesus to be a sinner.

David Nebeský
David Nebeský
3 years ago

According to scholastic theology, humans have a natural sense of knowing what is morally right and wrong (and conscience is reasoning based on this knowledge). Digust is the result of the natural knowledge that something is morally wrong. But of course, if we live in an environment where disgust is habitual, this natural sense dulls and we get used to disgusting acts and things. Conversely, we can be taught to find disgusting something that is not morally wrong.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

It is morally wrong to not be like Jesus who is the king of peace.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
3 years ago

The problem is that nothing is either right or wrong but thinking makes it so (and putting “wrong” in italics does not change this). Our six moral foundations verify or reject the output of any philosophical lucubration, and that is the end of it. Their is no appeal to Nature, nothing to compare with crucial experiments. There is no court beyond these moral foundations.
It is possible for evolution to change them, selection pressure may somehow breed out say the sanctity/degradation foundation (the one behind disgust) or weaken it. But not yet. It is just the object that changes. Try going on Twitter and making a racist remark and you will see sanctity/degradation in full flow.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Mott

Whoever thinks racism exists will degrade themselves. People are people. Humans are humans. Those statements degrade no one, God has a throne – court that is above all courts. Rev: 4:4, KJV. Be sure that YOU can stand in that court.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
3 years ago

You’d think an article about horse sha**ing would be more interesting than that, wouldn’t you?

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago

I dunno, If I were a horse as I am a man, I would have find the article pretty interesting.

Mel Bass
Mel Bass
3 years ago

Lol, not such an unlikely proposition as it sounds. I used to have a horse who had been hand-reared, after being orphaned as a very young foal, and he really did think he was more human than horse. He much preferred human company to that of other horses and would have lived in the house with me if he could. Hand-reared horses often do get over-familiar with humans, which can be quite painful in my experience, when half a ton of playful horse treats you like a fellow equine. I have also heard dark stories of hand-reared horses getting, shall we say ‘confused’ when it comes to sexual boundaries with humans, but that may just be salacious rumour in the horsy world!

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Mel Bass

Not confused. They think that whoever is sexy hence the erection. A beutiful, sleek long legged Ridgeback male dog thought I was sexy. The owner did not let him get off on me. That ended up being a sad story.

Last edited 2 years ago by Artie Fox
John Riordan
John Riordan
3 years ago

Do the animals we eat get tortured before they get killed? I am pretty sure they don’t – at least not intentionally. I recall once as a child getting into my first ever argument with a vegetarian (little did I know then that it would be the first of many), who described how pigs are slaughtered by first subjecting them to electric shocks. The point of this, I discovered later, is that this numbs the animals and greatly reduces the pain they would otherwise experience at the point of being killed.

For the vegetarian though, of course, abbatoirs were constructed primarily as medieval torture chambers with elaborate contraptions designed to inflict maximum pain on the animals for the sadistic enjoyment of the humans who worked there. She never asked herself if there mightn’t be a practical reason for having an expensive system in place that presumably cost a fortune in electricity bills to keep running; for her it merely confirmed the most lurid fantasies upon which her own prejudices were based.

Anyway, I’m not sure if Tom Chivers has added in the “tortured” thing as a means of emphasising the pointlessness of emotion-based moral frameworks or if it’s a general inaccuracy. Or, indeed, if I’m in fact wrong and they ARE tortured? I hope not obviously, being an avid meat eater myself I defend my position on the basis that these animals wouldn’t exist in the first place if we didn’t need to eat them, and as long as we minimise the suffering they experience at the point of death, we’re doing the best we can.

Still, lab grown meat is coming because the planet can’t support seven billion people all eating bacon sandwiches and porterhouse steaks, so the argument is probably moot anyway. We’ll be going back to the position that all the animals we see are wild, and all die in painful, horrific ways that don’t involve humans, so apparently we’re collectively off some hook at the point when that happens. Can’t see it myself if I’m honest, but the vegans seem very certain of themselves and it’d be nice if we finally got them to shut the f**k up for once.

Last edited 3 years ago by John Riordan
Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
3 years ago

He is in fact right because reason can be used to justify any behavior. Once we admit of no source of moral truth beyond human beings each individual, using his own power of reason can determine his own moral truth. And some people …..

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
3 years ago

thanks Tom for highlighting the primitive state that our attempts at morality are at – but at least there are signs of evolution though as always 2 steps forwards and one back !

George Glashan
George Glashan
3 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

is it primitive though, its been functional for all of human existence so far, just because technological advances and a declining societal religious framework now allow people a degree of choice over their morality doesn’t mean the existing morality is primitive or wrong

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
3 years ago

The first of Tom’s articles that I liked. The truth is inconvenient. We justify our actions to suit ourselves.
I think animal farming is immoral as is bestiality because it must have originated around the same time (around 5000 yrs?). So I shifted to being a vegan. But I do occasionally eat roadkill & culled, singly shot free roaming venison. So I am not a vegan. Labelling & moral justification.
What’s more important is to be willing to challenge one’s pre-existing view & actions even if it is uncomfortable as it has educational & character building benefits. This self correction and thought evolution, I suppose, should form our moral code that we ought to abide by & not because how it has always been done before.

mpeinovich
mpeinovich
3 years ago

I’ve got a moral brain twister for you.
A man goes to the store and buys an oven ready chicken. He then cooks the chicken and eats it. Then he goes to his computer and writes an article critical of Israel and Zionism. He submits the article to UnHerd. UnHerd refuses to publish it, but they can’t say WHY they refuse to publish it.
This a phenomenon called moral cowardice.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago

Zoosexuality is fine to they that like it. They that don’t,.. well …don’t. Judge yourself. Are you like Jesus or not? That should be your main concern, not what kind of sex life a person enjoys. People who have blood in them must not condemn another person. That is why Jesus did not condemn people when he walked among us. Jesus obeyed the Unseen Father. The legal Illegal thing is godless. Jesus is not in it. Satan is in it. Laws as they are, are keeping people from being their sexual selves. Those oppressive ungodly laws need to be removed. The law needs to say this: be like the kind peacful Jesus, or see him as fire. It is up to you.

Last edited 2 years ago by Artie Fox
Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago

Fornication is not sex. Christs enemies did not want to have sex with Jesus. They wanted Jesus to be dead. Christs enemies were born of fornication. Jesus wanted his enemies to be born again. Sodomites were not angry about not being able to have sex. The wanted to kill Lot doing worse to him when he did not let one person judge the two beings in Lot’s house.

Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago

God’s law is not legal and illegal. How can people think that God’s law is legal and illegal? Jesus did not keep legal and illegal. That is not keeping the laws that Jesus fulfilled. A person’s dislikes should not control what a person likes. Let people be free. Determine how you are with how Jesus was. Jesus cast people out of the temple dead set on making money. Stop whipping people with your tongue.
People will get what they give. That is why it is a good thing to be good to whatever species you have sex with. A righteous man considers the life of the beast. An unrighteous person does not care.

Last edited 2 years ago by Artie Fox
Artie Fox
Artie Fox
2 years ago

Satan is offended – disgusted with all that God made. We need to think beyond this life. A dog is not bothered had a person help him ejaculate even when the dog is in a dog park. A female dog does not care flagging her tail for you. The female dog may even pull your pants down to get it not caring where she is. Why should anyone else?
A sinful body cannot do what God did. We use what God made.
Left people: don’t harm others. Stop prompting the eating of human flesh. That is God’s image. Kuru, an incurable disease will occur. If anything is disgusting, that is.
Sex offender thing will go away when people consider how they are. Once to live and then the judgment. People who arrest people will not be given a gold star. People who are not like Jesus will not be given a gold star.

Last edited 2 years ago by Artie Fox
Joe mama
Joe mama
1 year ago

Comparing sexual intercourse with animals to using them for food is quite strange, considering most modern farms implement methods to make the slaughtering process painless. The same cannot be said about intercourse with animals, though. Animals often suffer through pain, bodily injury, or even death during the process.

Joe mama
Joe mama
1 year ago

Comparing sexual intercourse with animals to using them for food is quite strange, considering most modern farms implement methods to make the slaughtering process painless. The same cannot be said about intercourse with animals, though. Animals often suffer through pain, bodily injury, or even death during the process.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago

Animals cannot give consent because that requires an individualised ego or “I” sense. Only humans have full individuation in this physical world. Animals share a type of psychic group soul, so they feel much more acutely and sensitively than most humans, but they cannot say “I” to themselves.
Many of these so-called “difficult” questions, over which moral philosophy mulls endlessly, have clear answers. The problem is that these answers are only to be found in spiritual worlds, so you have to follow a spiritual path and train your dormant spiritual faculties to awaken to perception of these worlds to find and understand the answers for yourself. Otherwise, you have to rely on outdated teachings from traditional religion, which have become increasingly inscrutable to modern people as understanding of things spiritual has progressively been lost.
To have sex with animals is to face in the opposite direction to that of positive future human evolution. We humans are a spliced affair, with a divine spirit incarnating eons ago in what were then merely advanced animal bodies. Our trajectory since then has been to integrate and refine our animal part, understanding that the externally perceptible animals in the world out there are reflections of the animal parts of ourselves. For that reason, animals are to be treated with undeviating respect, kindness and affection. We are their protectors, as we are stewards for the whole of this our planet Earth.
The time is now well past when we western moderns need to turn again to progressive spirituality in order to create something new and better. Nothing in the realm of human morality has its origins in the purely natural world, and answers to moral questions cannot be found there.
Anyone interested in pursuing this further might read Rudolf Steiner’s Philosophy of spiritual activity, which provides a bridge for thinking from the natural sciences to spiritual science. It’s already over a century old, and more relevant than ever. Steiner was a polymath and high initiate in the western spiritual tradition. Most of his important lectures and books can be found online at rsarchive.org.

Last edited 3 years ago by Penelope Lane
Julia H
Julia H
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Animals can of course give and withhold consent. It’s perfectly obvious when an animal does not want to cooperate with a human and perfectly obvious when it does.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
3 years ago

if a person does not feel disgusted by the fact that billions of animals and birds are tortured, then killed annually then that person has not evolved very far in my humble opinion……
If you love etc meat and would rather stay in denial about the suffering that that causes at least have the integrity to admit that you are an animal abuser but that you might change your attitude in the future vs all this ‘we evolved to eat meat’ crap. we also evolved to murder, commit genocide and probably to rape when convenient but we now feel (usually) disgusted about those particular natural tendencies so i guess we have a lot of shifting still to do about what should cause us outrage !!!

George Glashan
George Glashan
3 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

i always ask my butcher for extra cruelty meat, I pay double where the animal also suffered unnecessarily and I always buy extra portions to throw away for all the vegans that aren’t eating their share. :p

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  George Glashan

What a sickening, violent, sadistic, brutish comment.
No, you’re not funny.

Last edited 3 years ago by Penelope Lane
George Glashan
George Glashan
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

thanks for the suggestion Penelope, i’d only previously considered treating animals cruelly but now ill be sure to add sickeningly, violently, sadistically, and brutally too, and its all thanks to you

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  George Glashan

Nor are you clever, or in any way smart.

George Glashan
George Glashan
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Thank you, your right Penelope, here i am seeking validation from strangers on message boards but your pious, humourless response to an article on bestiality has led me to see the error of my ways. From now on I’ll view every “psychic group soul” and all their orifices as sacred.

Last edited 3 years ago by George Glashan
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  George Glashan

your pious, humourless response to an article on bestiality
What does it take for you to understand that I was actually sickened and revolted on reading your reply to Chris Sullivan? My stomach churned. No kidding, no smart-Alec jokes, that’s what your comment did to me. That actually happened. To me. True.
There appears to be a number of men who regularly contribute to Unherd comment spaces who think it clever, funny and smart to try to be as outrageous, vile, filthy, contrarian and offensive as possible. I count you among them.
Try to understand that you and your male in-group joke-boys are not the sole arbiters of what is acceptable in public discourse here. And no way are you going to be allowed to take over these threads by sheer force of your nastiness.
Do you really think that I am pious and humourless because I find the idea of men sticking their cocks into horses to be revolting?

George Glashan
George Glashan
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Penelope, if reading online comments is giving you a physiological reaction you need to consult your doctor. Frankly I don’t believe that to be true, its hyperbole, not actually happened. to you. False. An attempt to close discourse by a false claim of physical harm caused by words, grow up.
I’m honoured to be amongst a community of contributors of offensive contrarians, perhaps you could compile a list and publicly denounce all of us?
Try to understand that you and your in group of moral preachers are not the sole arbiters of what is acceptable in public discourse here. And no way are you going to be allowed to take over these threads by sheer force of your zealotry.
I think you’re pious and humourless as that’s what your responses expose you to be, you’ve picked the wrong choir if you want to preach here. The article is about a female who fantasies about having sex with a horse not men,  I was actually sickened and revolted on reading your idea of men sticking their c0cks into horses. My stomach churned. No kidding, no smart-Alec jokes, that’s what your comment did to me. That actually happened. To me. True.

Last edited 3 years ago by George Glashan
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  George Glashan

…if reading online comments is giving you a physiological reaction you need to consult your doctor.
Er, there’s mountains of evidence out there about the deleterious effect of online hate-speech. It not only extends to causing physiological reaction; not infrequently it has led to suicide.
It has been a favoured tactic of Soviet authorities, when trying to deal with political opposition, to label protesters as mentally unwell, as insane.
I am protesting about your comment; I am not unwell.
Frankly I don’t believe that to be true, its hyperbole, not actually happened. to you. False. An attempt to close discourse by a false claim of physical harm caused by words, grow up.
Rather than address the substance of my protest, you choose to accuse me of lying. You have no evidence, and you cannot know that. You then fabricate a reason—”an attempt to close discourse”—to justify your denial.
Just in case that hasn’t been sufficient, you then add a dose of pure personal abuse—”grow up”—to make sure.
…you and your in group of moral preachers…
…I think you’re pious and humourless as that’s what your responses expose you to be, you’ve picked the wrong choir if you want to preach here…
There is a difference between preaching and teaching. I research and teach progressive spiritual development, which includes morals and ethics. I have a full set of formal qualifications for this, including a doctorate, supported by a lifetime of experience. I am respected in my field.
That does not make everything I say right, of course. Nor even necessarily of high quality. But it does mean I have something to say which deserves to be read impartially and with respect.
One of the problems today is that it’s very difficult to speak of morality and ethics at all without being booed off stage and accused of belonging to some preacher cult or other. Nothing could be further from the truth. I spend much of my time dealing with the adverse effects of phenomena such as fundamentalist Pentecostalism, for example.
So no, I don’t want to preach here. I want to discuss things, sometimes learn something, sometimes educate others, in polite and civilised, worthwhile exchange.
You, on the other hand, say you are honoured to be an offensive contrarian.

George Glashan
George Glashan
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Thank you Penelope, are you sure your not the comedian here? your appeal to authority based on your credentials is hilarious , its like what The Onion would write as a satire of an appeal to authority. I’m really enjoying your claims of all the various evidence you have too, can we have some evidence for “psychic group souls” please, it sounds like your sitting on some evidence which will literally redefine our understanding of reality.
what else do we have…. the escalation from words cause harm to words cause death… text book manipulative crybully behaviour. Penelope if online comments cause you to feel suicidal you must immediately seek help. – if UK based dial 116 123 for the Samaritans,- if US based 1-800-273-8255 but that’s not really the case is it? your glibly throwing around accusations of suicidal behaviour is callus and undermines the seriousness of the plight of those who are genuinely suicidal. Where will you escalate to next… words cause genocide…. words cause the apocalypse?
Thank you for your responses, in seriousness your denial of being mentally unwell rings hollow, please seek some help in friends or impartial supportive agencies.
Yours offensively,

George

Last edited 3 years ago by George Glashan
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  George Glashan

I made a genuine attempt to respond to your accusations. However, it is clear by now that no reasonable polite discussion is possible with you about any of the things I have said. And I have said all that needed to be said, I think. So I will not be engaging with you further.

George Glashan
George Glashan
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

come on Pen, don’t let your animosity for me stop you from sharing the evidence you have for “psychic group souls” with the rest of the community here on unherd , that’s far more cruel than any comment I have made

John McGibbon
John McGibbon
3 years ago
Reply to  George Glashan

Halal?

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Cruel farming practices like intensive livestock rearing, are wrong.

But eating animals that have been well-cared for isn’t – they wouldn’t otherwise have had a life at all, and natural death is often crueller than slaughter.

Veganism is the currently trendy False Religion for hollow, self-righteous people.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

I’m a meat eater myself, but I think the vegans are doing their best, are honest and well-intentioned for the most part, and should be given some space.
My take on it is that veganism has a long history and naturally suits some people. Think George Bernard Shaw. It’s also well known that many religions and spiritual paths recommend it as beneficial for certain situations and practices.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Thanks for a worthwhile comment, Chris, and sorry you got all those downvotes without accompanying explanations or underpinning.
There’s one aspect your argument fails to grasp adequately, though. I’d say it’s not death per se that is the problem, but animal suffering.
Death is a part of life when understood properly. We all die. Everything dies. Death-denial is a major psychic-spiritual problem in our western societies today. Putting animals or plants to death to provide human food is indeed part of our natural evolution. We may evolve into vegetarianism in the future, but right now the bigger problem is to confront human cruelty—in the way animals are treated from birth through to death. Let’s focus on eliminating human cruelty first, then issues of diet may become more clear-cut.

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
3 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

I have become a mostly vegan as I found out some of the practices in animal farming were unbelievable cruel. The growing population, the increasing demand for meat, the need to deliver on the profits & our disconnect between a living earthling and nicely packaged food in the supermarket.
If all of us were asked to kill and butcher our own food, most would convert to veganism.