Pornography involving animals is now illegal in the Netherlands

from www.rnw.nl – Pornography involving animals is now illegal in the Netherlands, just as it is in 80 other countries. The new law caused quite a stir in this country. Was it a patronising gesture by self-appointed moral guardians or a genuine attempt to protect animals? And if it’s for the animals, then why is factory farming still perfectly legal?

The Upper House of Parliament finally passed the ban on pornography and obscene acts with animals by 39 votes to 34. The Christian Democrats and the conservative VVD voted against the bill. It’s a remarkably narrow majority when you consider the nauseated reactions from ordinary folk at the very idea of sex with animals.

The average Dutch person is hardly going to lose sleep about the fact that DVDs and videotapes with animal porn will now disappear from the shelves of sex shops. In fact, they will probably rejoice.

Scandal in Utrecht
In 2004 a man in Utrecht was caught in flagrante delicto, having sex with a pony. There was considerable outrage among the police and the general public when he was subsequently released. He could only be charged with animal abuse if it could be proved that the animal had suffered harm. In this case, the pony had continued to feed during the act, apparently indifferent.

If it is purely about protecting animals, it is highly questionable whether the new law is actually necessary. Abuse of animals is already an offence and the new law only bans “lewd acts involving animals”, but not “sexual acts involving animals”.

Artificial insemination
That’s because “sexual acts” would include the production of sperm for artificial insemination. If that were banned, it would put an end to the lucrative animal breeding industry. It’s one of the reasons biologist and publicist Midas Dekker has described the law as a typical product of moral patronising.

Paul Peters, veterinarian and senator for the Socialist Party, also has his misgivings. He voted in favour of the bill, but says it’s a pity it had to be regulated using obscenity legislation.

Symbolic legislation
The Christian Democrats voted against the bill in the Upper House and criticised it as “symbolic legislation” which overshoots the mark. The Socialist Party, however, argues that the Christian Democrats were simply afraid of the powerful farming lobby, which is concerned that animal breeding and factory farming industry could be next in line. They are not actually affected by this law.

The law is manifestly inadequate when it comes to protecting animals. In practice, the courts will find it difficult to decide what exactly qualifies as a lewd act or pornography. Does the law cover literary descriptions and pictorial art, for example?

Damages
If the main concern was to tackle the seedy animal porn industry, a law banning its production and distribution would have been sufficient. The Netherlands supplies the majority of the animal porn videos available around the globe. The industry has already announced it will submit a claim for damages against the Dutch state.

Labour Party MP Harm Evert Waalkens, the author of the bill, says he was determined to tackle this evil at the root: “People who molest animals often turn out to be involved in domestic violence and sexual abuse as well.” Midas Dekker, on the other hand, says these people belong in a psychiatric institution not in prison.

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