Perhaps it is wrong for me to comment about a movie I have no intention of seeing: But if this review of the new semi-documentary Zoo is accurate, it apparently has a sympathetic take on “the last taboo,” meaning bestiality. (“Zoos” in this context don’t refer to animal viewing facilities but are apparently the chosen moniker of people who like to have sex with animals. It is a take off on zoophilia . Who knew?)
This film, at least as reviewed and described by the director Robinson Devor, seems steeped in what I call “terminal nonjudgmentalism,” by which I mean that we are losing sight of the important moral truth that some acts are intrinsically wrong—and it is killing our culture. Bestiality is one of these. It is wrong for many reasons, the most important of which goes beyond sex as animal abuse or, as some have put it, the lack of animal consent. Bestiality is an assault on human dignity itself. As I wrote in this piece about the controversy surrounding legislation in Washington State (since passed) to make bestiality illegal—which occurred after a man was killed from being sexually penetrated by a horse—the impetus for Zoo:
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 un exceptionalism than countenancing human/animal sex.
(Yes, I know that Peter Singer disagrees, claiming in a book review on Nerve.com that “we are animals, indeed more specifically, we are great apes. This does not make sex across the species barrier normal, or natural, whatever those much-misused words may mean, but it does imply that it ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings.”)
I am not saying that we shouldn’t strive to understand what drives people into such a depraved state that they couple with animals. But this should not be to wink at the practice or normalize it as just another choice. Rather, it should be for the purpose of helping mental-health professionals treat and restore “Zoos” to a proper sense of self-dignity and mental health. But this seems beyond Devor, a self-described artist who said, “I consider nothing human alien to me.”
Devor also said that he had “aestheticized the sleaze right out of it.” Sorry. Can’t be done. What Devor really tried to do was cover up the moral stink, adding his energies and talent to the ongoing project to bring about the descent of man.
Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. He is currently researching a book on the animal-liberation movement.