Animal welfare: Germany moves to ban bestiality

Image caption,
The German parliament is expected to vote on the law next month

Germany's ruling coalition is calling for a ban on bestiality - or the practice of having sex with animals.

The German parliament's agriculture committee is considering making it an offence not only to hurt an animal but also to force it into unnatural sex. Offenders could face a hefty fine.

A final vote will be held in the Bundestag (lower house) on 14 December.

Germany legalised bestiality (zoophilia) in 1969, except when the animal suffered "significant harm".

But animal rights groups have campaigned for a change in the law and Hans-Michael Goldmann, the head of the parliamentary committee investigating the new amendment, told the Tageszeitung newspaper that the new legislation was intended to clarify the current legal position.

"With this explicit ban, it will be easier to impose penalties and to improve animal protection."

A fine of up to 25,000 euros (£20,000) is proposed if someone forces an animal to commit "actions alien to the species".

But Michael Kiok, the chairman of the pressure group Zoophile Engagement for Tolerance and Information (Zeta), said he was going to take legal action to fight the proposed changes.

"It is unthinkable that any sexual act with an animal is punished without proof that the animal has come to any harm," he said, adding that animals are capable of showing what they do, or do not, want to do.

"We see animals as partners and not as a means of gratification. We don't force them to do anything. Animals are much easier to understand than women," Mr Kiok claimed.

Bestiality is banned in many European countries, including the Netherlands, France and Switzerland.

The law was changed in the UK in 2003, which reduced the maximum sentence from life imprisonment to two years.

The act however, is permissible in Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, though Stockholm is considering a change in the legislation.