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Denmark: Animal Protection Act Strengthened by Ban on Bestiality

(May 7, 2015) On April 21, 2015, Denmark’s legislature approved a motion that bans bestiality; the goal of the action is to combat animal-sex tourism. The ban, which comes into force on July 1, was passed by a 91-75 vote, with five abstentions. It will impose a fine or imprisonment as punishment for anyone found guilty of sexual relations with an animal. According to a spokesperson for the Danish Animal Ethics Council speaking on the subject while admitting a lack of verified evidence, there have been animal brothels and organized animal sex shows in the country. (Chris Bolwig, Denmark to Clamp Down on Animal-Sex Tourism, ICE NEWS (Apr. 29, 2015); Jessica Plautz, Denmark Passes Law Banning Bestiality, MASHABLE (Apr. 22, 2015).)

The Animal Ethics Council is a body appointed by the Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries that provides consultations to that Ministry on the subject of animal welfare. (Denmark, the Animal Ethics Council, EUROPEAN FORUM OF ANIMAL WELFARE COUNCILS (last visited Apr. 30, 2015).) In 2011, the Justice Ministry reported that of veterinarians surveyed, 17% thought that they had treated an animal that had been sexually abused by a human. (Bolwig, supra.)

Danish legislators were concerned that the existing Animal Protection Act did not protect animals from sexual abuse by humans. (Bolwig, supra; Bekendtgørelse af dyreværnsloven [Announcement of the Animal Protection Act] (Dec. 4, 2007, as amended through June 25, 2010), RETSINFORMATION.DK.) Dan Jorgensen, the Farm Minister, shared that view, indicating that while it was difficult to ascertain whether or not an animal suffered in a sexual encounter with a person, such harm should be presumed. He added that people should understand that such treatment of animals is unacceptable. (Bolwig, supra.) People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had petitioned the Prime Minister for an amendment to existing legislation covering bestiality. (Animal-Sex Tourism Crackdown: Denmark Bans Bestiality, RT.COM (Apr. 22, 2015).)

Some politicians have taken another view, however. Joachim Olsen of the Liberal Alliance, who is also a member of the Animal Ethics Council, opposed the new law, stating, “[b]est case, this is a superficial law. Worst case, it is political populism and moralism.” (Plautz, supra.)

A survey done in the fall of 2014 found that 76% of Danes favored the ban on sexual relations with animals. (Rose Troup Buchanan, Denmark Moves to Ban Bestiality: Controversial Right to Have Sex with Animals Will Be Outlawed, INDEPENDENT (Oct. 13, 2014).) The new legislation places Denmark in line with most other European countries in its legal protection of animal welfare. There are now only three European Union countries that do not outlaw bestiality: Finland, Hungary, and Romania. (Bolwig, supra.)