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Going to bed with the chickens: the criminalisation of sexual acts with non-human animals and corpses

Junior Common Room at Birmingham Law School
Arts and Law, Research
Wednesday 29th February 2012 (12:30-14:00)

If you wish to attend please contact Dr Anastasia Vakulenko at

Staff Research Seminar: Dr. Imogen Jones (Manchester Law School)


This paper examines the criminal offences of ‘Intercourse with an animal’ and ‘Intercourse with a corpse’ from a liberal perspective. It is argued that whilst the offences cannot be reconciled with the liberal harm principle, Feinberg’s offence principle might offer some redress to those wishing to protect deceased loved ones.

It is suggested that the motivation for criminalising these acts must lie in human intuitions and sentiments. Drawing from the analysis of the mistreatment of corpses in the context of organ retention, the significance of cultural, emotional and religious thought is emphasised. These, it is often argued, are more important than neutral rationality. The depth of the ‘deep personal affronts’ suffered by those close to a deceased in this circumstance might justify a departure from the presumption that the criminalisation of private but offensive acts will not be condoned by the offence principle. This could offer a rationale for criminalisation which is acceptable to liberals.

Whilst this argument may seem clear when referring to the human dead, it may also be possible to extend this reasoning to sexual acts involving animals. If this is the case and can be seen to justify criminalisation of acting upon both sexual preferences, then it is proposed that the law ought to be phrased consistently across the two offences. Accordingly, the proposition that both non-penile sexual penetration of any orifice of an animal and intercourse with dead animals ought to be brought within the ambit of the criminal law is advanced. It is suggested that the majority of those offended by the penile intercourse currently criminalised would be equally outraged by the sexual penetration of any orifice of an animal, dead or alive, with anything.

Discussant:  Professor Andrew Sanders




  • Staff Research Seminars take place at 1pm in the Senior or Junior Common Room, Birmingham Law School
  • A sandwich lunch and a glass of wine will be provided from 12:30 pm
  • Postgraduate students and academic staff are welcome to attend.

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