Until recently, there has been extremely limited research on bestiality and zoophilia, but that’s slowly beginning to change. Since 2018, articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals worldwide on a range of topics such as the incidence of bestiality among sexually violent predators (Holoyda, 2020), the lack of training available to Canadian veterinarians (McMillan, 2020), laws in Eastern Europe (Vetter, 2020), historic cases in early modern Russia (Muravyeva, 2019), and the prevalence and impact of animal sexual abuse in the U.S. (Edwards, 2019).
A new study published in October 2019 explores bestiality in Portugal and Spain, focusing on the important role played by veterinarians in bestiality investigations. (Castanheira, 2019).
Overall, the study found that:
- Veterinarians regularly encounter animal cruelty including suspected sexual abuse, but are reluctant to report it
- Training for veterinary and other medical personnel is lacking
- Laws prohibiting bestiality in Portugal and Spain are inadequate
- Animal pornography-seeking behavior is prevalent in both Portugal and Spain
The key statistics are:
- 140 veterinarians were surveyed, 111 responses were analyzed
- 63.9% had ecountered suspected animal cruelty (including sexual abuse)
- 8.1% had specifically suspected at least once incidence of animal sexual abuse
- 15.3% had reported at least one case of suspected animal cruelty
- 80% felt sexual contact with an was abusive (including masturbation of the animal or oral stimulation of a person by an animal)
- 97% considered sexual contact abusive regardless of whether the animal resisted or appeared uninjured
- 94% believed sexual abuse could cause psychological damage to the animal
Animal sexual abuse is highly under-reported by veterinarians even though the majority of vets surveyed felt reporting should be mandatory. While 64% indicated they had encountered suspected or confirmed cases of animal cruelty, only 15.3% said they had actually reported it to law enforcement. This was interesting since, when asked whether reporting of animal cruelty should be mandatory, 92% said Yes.
The responding veterinarians indicated they were most likely to suspect an animal had been sexually abused based on physical evidence (e.g. presence of a foreign object or obvious physical trauma), but that other key indicators were the animal’s behavior toward his or her guardian, and a discrepancy between the history provided and what the vet observed.
Reponding vets gave various reasons for their reluctance to report animal cruelty ranging from an absence of observable injury to a belief that no action would be taken anyway. Several vets commented they were afraid of being sued or losing a client.
This article is fairly comprehensive and provides background on a range of subjects related to bestiality and zoophilia, with (in this author’s opinion) the most important sections being those on the veterinarian’s role in bestiality investigations and the lack of enforceable legislation in Portugal and Spain. One caution should be noted. It’s not uncommon for statistics quoted in cited research to be misinterpreted or overstated. For example, Castanheira states “There is a clear connection between bestiality and violence ... but there is still insufficient research to support the link between animal sexual abuse and interpersonal violence.” This statement is unclear, somewhat contradictory, and unsupported by research to date.