Quantcast
Animals Can Consent to Sex with Humans, Claims Human Accused of Running Animal Brothel

Former cocaine smuggler Douglas Spink briefly dominated headlines in 2010 when police raided his property in Whatcom County, Washington, and found an animal brothel, replete with mice covered in Vaseline. Spink became the poster boy for bestiality, and...

Photo via Flickr user ronniegrob

In April 2010, former cocaine smuggler Douglas Spink briefly dominated headlines when police raided his property in Whatcom County, Washington. Inside, they found a Welsh tourist making use of what the press has since described as an animal brothel, replete with tail-less mice covered in Vaseline. Overnight, Spink became the poster boy for the bizarre, brutal world of bestiality.

But according to Spink and journalist Carreen Maloney—whose upcoming book, Uniquely Dangerous, deals with his case—that’s not quite how things went down. Maloney believes, based on court records, that the Vaseline mice, for instance, were a fabrication created by the local Humane Society, and Spink says the ordeal is a manifestation of a bigoted assault on him for being an outspoken defender of heterospecies relationships, sometimes known as zoophilia.

Spink doesn’t consider himself just another animal fucker. He describes himself as a counter-surveillance researcher (at Baneki Privacy Labs), a heterospecies writer and thinker, and a species-equality activist who cut his teeth in frontline direct action in the 1990s with Earth First. 

VICE recently spoke to Spink, in the final stretch of his current sentence, about his views on heterospecies identity, zoophobic bigotry, and our revilement of inter-species intimacy as a natural result of human solipsism and aggressively ecocidal policies.

VICE: First off, are you OK with being called a zoophile, or do you use a different term?
Douglas Spink: I tend to use "heterospecies" rather than "zoophile." I see it as the difference between calling someone gay and calling them a faggot.

I do not think that I'm terribly good as a categorical representative of heterospeciesists or any particular class. I'm a bit of an outlier, even in the communities where I feel most at home. A BASE-jumping, Chicago MBA–carrying, counter-surveillance-tech-developing, Asperger's-diagnosed oddball. Proudly so.

I have chosen a path of dissent from the default zoophobic stance in our current social sphere, and as a result I've been targeted and imprisoned. It's a thought-crime issue, not an action-based issue. My words are considered criminal, and enormous effort has been expended to censor me.

Can you tell me how you first got engaged in heterospecies identities and issues?
I was raised in a horse-centric environment, having learned to ride at age two. I was (and am) able to empathetically understand things from the horse's perspective. In biology class, I was presented with some counterintuitive claims of facts that were decidedly incongruent with what I knew from my firsthand immersion alongside equine companions, like "Animals were devoid of any interest in sex or sexuality, and bred purely based on instinct."

As a young teenager, I was able to learn about the (then new) horrors of factory farming from nonprofits like PETA. I became a lifelong (if imperfect) vegetarian, and my interest in activist work in support of non-human well-being kicked into high gear. Bring those threads together, and you get the question of heterospecies relations between humans and non-humans.

OK, so you questioned the treatment of animals early on, and animal sexuality—but how did you move past the initial taboos and start engaging with heterospecies intimacy?
Anyone who can really generate some sort of putative revulsion over the idea of two social mammals engaging in intimate relations is displaying a deeply problematic misunderstanding of what it is to be a social mammal. It's a manufactured taboo.

I hear, in private discussions, a dropping of the entirely manufactured taboo positioning and a curiosity about the topic itself. And yet, when our public faces are put back on—shocking! Disgusting! Revolting! Shameful!

That's different from folks who are genuinely made uncomfortable by discussions of homosexual (human) relationships. Our culture has a closet obsession with non-human sexuality. We deny it, but can't get enough of it.

Zoophobic persecution in any systematic sense is very much a modern phenomenon. I know we tend to assume that people like me have always been persecuted. But that default assumption doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

Can you give a few historical examples where heterospecies relations were considered normal? Or the moment you think anti-heterospecies sentiment originated in modern culture?
The most compelling evidence is the vastly common theme of human/non-human couplings within the genesis stories of so many different cultures and religions. Clearly, this is not a concept that was beyond imagination in the vast majority of human cultures. If anything, the evidence suggests that it would be unimaginable for such things not to have taken place as part of routine social activities!

I do note that the rise of modern torture-farmed production of meat (and milk and eggs) for human consumption takes place step-by-step alongside the sudden (putative) freak-out over non-human sexuality and heterospecies relationships. Whether there's a causative link between those two variables is an open question within the research literature.

We are cutting ourselves off from the rest of the living world. What few pets we see on the street are almost certainly surgically mutilated—spayed or neutered—in order to make them de-sexed and socially crippled versions of themselves. We never see real non-humans, and thus can distance ourselves from the concept of non-humans as people.

Illustration by Julia Gfrörer

Historical precedent or not, critics of heterospecies relationships say it’s impossible for animals to give consent for a sexual relationship, so human-animal intimacy is at least coercive, but more often abusive. What do you say to that?
While it's not too difficult to see that pulling the skin from a still-living cow is harmful to her—something that happens hundreds of times a day in torture farms, 100 percent legal in the USA—it's not at all clear that equating sexual intimacy with abuse has any scientific or empirical basis.

People say any sexual interaction between a human and a non-human is "always abusive" because non-humans are unable to consent to being passive participants in a sexual act. But the zoophobic hate-law passed in Washington State in 2006 came about as a direct result of an interaction in which the humans were passive. People say non-humans cannot make their own choices about their own sexual activities. But a mare who prefers not to mate with a given stallion does just fine telling him "no" with her hooves. That's called "female mate preference," and it's an essential part of mammalian life.

If animals cannot consent to sexual intimacy with humans, then they cannot consent to such activity with anyone else, which means we live in a world of unrelenting, unpunished, unacknowledged rape. Which is obviously silly. It's profoundly insulting to the integrity and autonomy of sentient, self-aware, adult non-humans.

No means no, and that translates just fine. There's a deep tradition of awareness within the genuine animal rights world that specious mislabeling of heterospecies relationships as abusive does a profound disservice both to the humans and the non-humans involved in such relationships.

Humans can be cruel—horrifically so—when it comes to their treatment of non-humans. From bulls who are forcibly “electro-ejaculated” by having an electric probe rammed into their rectum to mares put in stocks and inseminated by veterinary technicians as they kick and fight, these kinds of overtly nonconsensual activities happen all the time. They're perfectly legal, too.

To me, that's a crime. That such rapes take place far more often in industrial torture-farming than in reciprocal, heterospecies relationships is impossible to deny.

So who are the people who get into heterospecies relationships? You’ve said you’re a bit of an outlier, but is there any commonality within the heterospecies community? For that matter, is there actually a community that views it as a primary part of their identity? Or is it just hidden and idiosyncratic?
The community, as fragmented and occasionally (perhaps often) dysfunctional as it is, exists. Sometimes there are heated political divisions between the “dog zoos” and “horse zoos” in the heterospecies community. And the rotten apples tend to smell strongest and be most easily picked out. But that doesn't mean they represent the wide body of apples in the barrel, eh?

It mirrors what one finds in, for example, the gay community. I mean, is there really such a thing as the “gay community” in the first place? Are twinks and leather bears really part of some cohesive social identity, simply because of their gender preferences? Also, as bizarre as it is to imagine that someone could be cured of homosexuality by having some mouth-foaming preacher scream at them that an imaginary Jee-zus hates fags, it's even more ridiculous to think that someone whose internal social nexus revolves around non-humans is going to be able to selectively exclude this essential component of their identity from the way in which they approach the most fundamental elements of both their self-construction and their place within larger society.

I'd say that heterospecies folks are generally and noticeably empathetic in essential nature. One of the key flags that will trip what we colloquially refer to as “zoodar” is that highly empathetic feeling they give off. They tend to quite visibly have “the gift” when it comes to working with non-human colleagues. They're often somewhat shy about that gift. They tend to be somewhat bookish and perhaps a bit more likely to be highly verbal and/or strong in math. I suspect this has to do with a wide overlap between heterospecies folks and the proverbial autism spectrum. Sadly, they tend to be scarred.

The scarring can be somewhat shallow or it can manifest in spectacularly destructive, self-hatred-driven exhibitions such as found in the case of Randy Pepe, a.k.a. Zoobuster. He was an admitted zoophile who turned on his community in the late 1990s, outing people who had trusted him and keeping a kill list on his website, where he bragged about those who had committed suicide, or whose non-human partners had been abducted and murdered, as a result of his sick campaign.

These scars all mirror what we'd expect from any dual-identity situation, i.e., closeted psychology.

You talk about persecution. How does that usually play out? Do you think the bigotry you feel you’ve experienced is similar to, say, that involved in the gay-rights movement?
The tragic reality is that bigotry toward heterospecies individuals primarily manifests itself in attacks on the non-human partner in the relationship. There are examples documented in this country of police abducting mares from (presumed) zoophiles and burning off their genitals with a blowtorch while forcing the human partner to watch the torture. What's been done to me, as a person, pales in comparison to the horror of knowing my loved ones—family members I would gladly put my life down to protect—were murdered while I was held in a solitary-confinement isolation cell in federal prison, unable to save them. It's quite difficult to pretend this is all motivated by a concern for non-human well-being when the first targets are always the non-humans involved.

Stigmatized or targeted minorities are subjected to a barrage of bizarre, counterfactual, essentially mythological assertions by the majority social groups. Look at how many “respectable” newspapers published the bullshit Vaseline-slathered-mice myth relating to my case in 2010. There's not a single actual recorded instance of Vaseline-slathered mice actually existing. I've also seen it in the almost-humorous lengths to which mainstream journalists will go in writing stories about me without ever contacting me.

Because the lies that are routinely told about us are so patently ridiculous, effort focuses in on silencing anyone who can and will directly confront the bigoted bullshit. I've been threatened with assassination (by a US Marshal), threatened with years in prison, been targeted by several (failed) efforts to frame me for new (nonexistent) crimes. But in the end it was worth it. A core precedent was set: No longer can zoophobes in this country batter and coerce people like me into silence with threats of violence.

It's essentially impossible not to see the obvious overlap between the excuses offered in justification of zoophobic bigotry when compared to those which were, until quite recently, offered in service of homophobic bigotry—justification based on citations from the Old Testament, and in particular Leviticus. I've developed a theory that, for some bigots in search of a bigotry, the fact that they're no longer (socially) empowered to hate gay folks has caused them to switch over to zoophobic bigotry as a handy substitute.

This comparison is not popular with many self-styled activists against “discrimination based on sexual orientation.” To them, the only legitimate sexual orientation dimension is straight/gay. Witness the ugly battles over whether trans folks are allowed to share the momentum of the successful gay-rights campaigns.

You seem to couch some of your arguments in the notion that you’re targeted for your sexual orientation. But as far as I’m aware, heterospecies is not recognized as a legitimate, legal sexual orientation. How do you contend with the fact that society and the legal system don’t acknowledge the validity of your self-described sexual orientation?
There is an “evolving consensus” amongst researchers who actually bother to study such things that a heterospecies orientation is indeed a legitimate sexual orientation, whatever “legitimate” means in this context. Turn it around: Where's the research suggesting that a heterospecies orientation is not a legitimate sexual orientation? There's no such research.

Whether the legal system, or society, acknowledges the validity of an empirically validated fact or not is not actually my concern. My own experience is that the legal system will bend itself into comical pretzels in order to avoid confronting the issue altogether.

Let the bigots justify their position. The transitive statement holds true:

1. Bigotry based on sexual orientation is wrong.

2. Heterospecies is a sexual orientation.

3. Therefore, bigotry targeting heterospecies individuals is wrong.

You talk about your vocal and open role as a heterospeciesist in terms of political dissidence, academic research, and activism. What are your goals?
My work is entirely in support of full, reciprocal, respectful interconnections between humans and non-humans. Period. Zoophobic persecution is the other side of the coin of hatred of, disrespect for, and rejection of full personhood on behalf of non-human people.

In the political space, I see zoophobic bigotry more as a manifestation of the breakdown of the rule of law in modern America: "The law doesn't exist to protect people like you." That transcends the heterospecies community and includes extra-legal attacks on people of color, trans folks, immigrants, those without lots of financial resources.

It's a betrayal of all the good things on which our country was originally founded (if imperfectly so: see treatment of Native Americans, slaves, women, and others): Equality, equal protection under law, and due process.