BERLIN — Germany’s upper house of Parliament, the Bundesrat, voted Friday to criminalize for the first time “using an animal for personal sexual activities” and to punish offenders with fines of as much as $34,000. It was the final legislative hurdle for a bill the lower house passed in December.
The vote follows months of debate that pitted zoophiles against animal rights and protection advocates. Sexual mores seemed not to play a paramount role.
The ban, which carries only a misdemeanor charge, is an amendment to the country’s animal protection law, multifaceted legislation that, among other things, regulates animal testing and the sale of animals and prohibits animal abuse, including “using an animal for personal sexual activities or making them available to third parties for sexual activities and thereby forcing them to behave in ways that are inappropriate to their species.”
Zoophiles argue that their relationships with their pets, or “partners” as they prefer, are entirely mutual. Michael Kiok, a director of the advocacy group Zoophilic Engagement for Tolerance and Enlightenment, who now finds himself the de facto face of zoophilia in Germany, says animals are perfectly capable of expressing whether or not they desire sex.
Animal-rights groups have criticized men like Mr. Kiok, saying they put defenseless creatures in harm’s way.
But David Zimmermann, an animal caretaker who is also a director of the zoophilic group, said: “It’s a sexual aspect that is entirely foreign to most people. They just see a man and think, ‘What terrible things is he doing to that dog?’ ”
Mr. Zimmermann had a Great Dane with which he occasionally had sex, but it died four months ago, he said. Now he lives with his similarly zoophilic boyfriend and their Dalmatian.
“For me she’s just a good friend that I care about very, very much — there’s no sex,” Mr. Zimmermann said after a recent screening here of a documentary-style film on zoophilia that depicted fictitious characters like a pornography star with sexual feelings for cats and a butcher who fell in love with a pig.
The film was shown in a stuffy cinema in downtown Berlin that resembled a school classroom more than a movie theater, with rows of foldable chairs and a projector screen. It delved into a more philosophical side of the debate, with its view that it is hypocritical to denounce romantic relationships with animals while largely ignoring the existence of slaughterhouses or fur coats.