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POV: The Love That Dare Not Bark Its Name

Point Of View with Barbara Sumner Burstyn

The Love That Dare Not Bark Its Name

Is the right to fiddle Fido the new civil rights movement?

Are dogs the new humans? Just ask Philip Buble, the 42 year-old writer of the Zoophilia Manifesto and the poster boy for zoosexuals all around the world. Buble, a 'one-dog man' and his four-legged companion 'Lady Buble' consider themselves the first out-of-the-closet zoo couple. Buble who characterizes his predilections as legitimate 'sexual orientation' was court last year, giving evidence against his father, who attacked him out of disgust for his lifestyle. In a letter he sent to the judge Buble asked for permission for Lady Buble to give evidence and signed it with both a signature and a paw-print.

And then there's the rumors surrounding the killer dog case presently before the courts in San Francisco. Pictures have allegedly been found featuring defendants Marjorie Knoller and her husband Robert Noel - both facing manslaughter charges after their dog mauled their neighbor to death - of Knoller posing nude with fighting dog drawings and a letter from the couple that discusses sexual activity between Noel, Knoller and the killer dog.

Noel told the San Francisco Chronicle, "there used to be a time when guy-on-guy or woman-on-woman relationships were looked on as unnatural acts. What concern is it to anybody if there is or isn't a personal relationship?"

And certainly historically Buble, Knoller and Noel are in good company. Tales of intimate human-animal contact can be found throughout ancient folklore and mythology. After all Zeus, in the form of a swan had sexual intercourse with Leda, the queen of Sparta. William Butler Yeats used this story as background for a famous poem. And Greek and Roman mythology portray females having sexual relationships with a whole range of creatures.

And just ask anyone who grew up in a farming district - certainly my high school years in Invercargil were full of covert discussion about farm boys and their 'friends'.

But what sets this latest group of zoos - as they like to call themselves - apart from their animal loving forebears is not the act itself but their strident adherence to bestiality as a lifestyle choice. Whichever way you slice it, today's animal husbandry is different. Instead of secret aberrant behavior, zoos are overtly banding together, supporting each other via the Internet and co-opting the rhetoric of the civil rights movement in their demands for fully fledged recognition of bestiality as legitimate sexual orientation.

Shocked and surprised? We shouldn't be. It seems to me a natural consequence of allowing society to dissolve into anti-specism, as all of us increasingly consider animals to be honorary humans, indulging them and ascribing to them all level of human virtues and emotions.

Recently the SPCA in Vancouver, Canada urged that a dog owner be charged with psychological abuse and His Holiness the Pope said animals are as ensouled as we are. But he didn't stop there. Many animals, he's quoted as saying, are far superior to human beings in their loyalty and trust and lack of artifice, those virtues we find increasingly lacking in our own species.

If nothing else, it shows that at least on the subject of animals the Catholic Church is at the forefront of contemporary thought - the kind of new thinking expounded by philosophers such as Peter Singer, which refuses to distinguish between animals and humans.

Toronto psychiatrist Dr. Irvin Wolkoff recently described the relationship between a human and their pet as far less complicated and far more satisfying than the relationship between two humans. While British biochemist Richard Sheldrake, author of the ponderously titled Dogs That Know When their Owners Are Coming (Home) believes that some dogs connect telepathically with humans. New York animal physic Joanna Seere agrees, she helps animals find balance, wholeness and themselves through meditation and the payment of US$90. She's so busy it takes weeks to get an appointment.

In fact the line between our pets and our own self-image is now so thin that a Philadelphia newspaper just launched pet obituaries while big US companies like AT&T offer a pet benefit plan along with human health care. In the UK Morgan Stanley Dean Witter& Co recently ranked pet health insurance above pensions in importance while a US hotel chain has introduced a Privileged Paws frequent-stay programme featuring fluoride enriched water bowls and free in-room meals. Then of course there are pet products galore - everything from jewelry to organic food to pajamas and perfume.

So here's the test. Just how liberal are you? If Buble and his peers have their way we'll see the space vacated by the now predominately mainstreamed gay rights movement occupied by zoo couples. And the love that dare not bark it's name will be coming to a channel near you as they plan pro-zoo documentaries and designer fashion shows for zoo couples, not to mention hiring lawyers and creating legal organizations And while it seems obvious that once you imbue dogs with human traits and insist - through animal rights legislation - that they be treated like humans - and as we increasingly bend over backwards to accommodate and respect diversity, then the next steps are logical.

So if next time you hear a report about fiddling fido and suddenly discover you're not such a liberal after-all - be careful how you express your disgust. You could be accused of specism and since there's really no reason why zooishness shouldn't be covered by anti-discrimination laws you could end up in jail as Lady Buble's outraged father-in-law has. It's enough to make you barking mad.

©Barbara Sumner Burstyn, March 2002

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