Animal Sexual Assault

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The chapter begins by discussing academic and legal definitions of animal sexual assault. It argues that, given that in effect animals are wards under our control and that they are unable to offer consent in forms that we can understand, all sexual advances towards animals should be seen as sexual assault. The extent of animal sexual assault is discussed. Studies have found that up to 35 % of adult populations have committed animal sexual assault, although we acknowledge that these findings should be treated cautiously, given their methodological limitations. Next, the literature on why humans engage in sexual activities with animals, including Beirne’s typology with its categories of adolescent sexual experimentation, aggravated cruelty, commercial exploitation and zoophilia, is critically reviewed. The chapter concludes by arguing for the development of reliable empirical research, pro-animal legislation and multi-strategy responses to animal sexual assault.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPalgrave International Handbook of Animal Abuse Studies
EditorsJennifer Maher, Harriet Pierpoint, Piers Beirne
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-43183-7
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-43182-0
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • animal sexual assault
  • animal sexual abuse
  • zoophilia
  • bestiality
  • theory
  • interventions
  • definitions
  • green criminology


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