Monday, September 21, 2015

Bentham on bestiality

Apparently there are credible allegations that British Prime Minister David Cameron had sexual relations with a dead pig as a member of a secret society in college. This provides a nice occasion to note Bentham's sensible discussion of bestiality in 1785:
An abomination which meets with as little quarter as any of the preceding is that where a human creature makes use in this way of a beast or other sensitive creature of a different species. A legislator who should take Sanchez for his guide might here repeat the same string of distinctions about the vas proprium and improprium, the imaginations and the simultaneity and so forth. Accidents of this sort will sometimes happen; for distress will force a man upon strange expedients. But one might venture to affirm that if all the sovereigns in Europe were to join in issuing proclamations inviting their subjects to this exercise in the warmest terms, it would never get to such a height as to be productive of the smallest degree of political mischief. The more of these sorts of prosecutions are permitted the more scope there is given for malice or extortion to make use of them to effect its purpose upon the innocent, and the more public they are the more of that mischief is incurred which consists in shocking the imaginations of persons of delicacy with a very painful sentiment. 
Burning the animal
Some persons have been for burning the poor animal with great ceremony under the notion of burning the remembrance of the affair. (See Puffendorf, Bks. 2, Ch. 3, 5. 3. Bacon's Abridg. Title Sodomy. J.B.) A more simple and as it should seem a more effectual course to take would be not to meddle or make smoke [?] about the matter.