Human Exceptionalism

Florida Outlawing Bestiality a Telling Sign of Our Times

I have written previously that I first became concerned about the question of bestiality when a Washington State legislator sought to outlaw the practice and proponents had difficulty articulating why sex with animals should be illegal, with most reduced to muttering about the animals not giving consent. No, I wrote. Bestiality isn’t wrong because animals can’t consent, it is wrong (in addition to being abuse) because (contrary to Peter Singer’s belief) it violates human exceptionalism. From my Weekly Standard article, “Horse Sense:”

MOST PEOPLE take human exceptionalism for granted. They can no longer afford to do so. The great philosophical question of the 21st Century is going to be whether we will knock humans off the pedestal of moral exceptionalism and instead define ourselves as just another animal in the forest. The stakes of the coming debate couldn’t be more important: It is our exalted moral status that both bestows special rights upon us and imposes unique and solemn moral responsibilities–including the human duty not to abuse animals.

Nothing would more graphically demonstrate our unexceptionalism than countenancing human/animal sex. Thus, when Roach’s legislation passes, the law’s preamble should explicitly state that one of the reasons bestiality is condemned through law is that such degrading conduct unacceptably subverts standards of basic human dignity and is an affront to humankind’s inestimable importance and intrinsic moral worth.

But we live in morally ambiguous, indeed in some ways, amoral times.  Some pushed back against my take on why bestiality is wrong. Meanwhile, as I decried here, a novel was widely praised for its explicit depiction of sex between a chimp and a woman.

Now, the Florida Legislature has passed a bill criminalizing bestiality to the governor for presumed signature. (Worryingly, it took a couple of years to get the legislation passed.) It is unfortunate that such a law is necessary. But alas, we live in times when people think that what is “legal” is a synonym for what is “right.” So, good for Florida for accomplishing the necessary, if distasteful task, of erasing all doubt.

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