Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time

A Nuanced Look at “Zoophilia”

August 29, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

A new documentary film about efforts by animal rights activists to ban beastiality (zoophilia) in Denmark shines a spotlight on the one “zoophile,” Oliver Burdinski, who was willing to speak on camera. In an in depth interview, Mr. Burdinski argues that animals can consent through physical cues and that he, not his dog, is the passive partner. The opposite, he says, would be cruel.

Mr. Burdinski speaks very candidly about his experience: “When I was 14 or 15, I wasn’t sure if it was right, so I tried to get human partners. But I was not happy with them. I tried to be normal. In 1994, I got internet and realized that I’m not alone.”

The video below is the in-depth interview. To see the new documentary, which is very interesting, click the link at the top of the story.


Mr. Burdinski says he did not choose to be a zoophile; he insists that it’s his sexual orientation. He reminds me of a childhood neighbor who is now in prison for pedophilia. His parents told me his addiction to “touching boys” was kept in check by high doses of an antidepressant, but, when he reduced his dose due to side effects, the urges came back. I don’t know if he has OCD or if his sexual orientation is pedophilia. Either way, he is a very nice guy born with a very big problem. Sad for him. Sad for his victims.

Unlike my childhood neighbor, who has not spoken publicly about his struggles, Mr. Burdinski is very brave to be the public face of zoophilia and to educate the public about the issue. Even though a ban on zoophilia cannot be enforced in peoples’ homes, I do think it should be outlawed in order to end animal sex tourism in Denmark. I can’t believe that even exists! Then again, Denmark is home to one of the cruelest events on earth – “The Grind” – during which 800 pilot whales are rounded up and brutally slaughtered each year in the Faroe Islands.

Filed under: Companion Animals
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Rabbit Meat Protests at Whole Foods: What is Our Rationale?

August 18, 2014 by Leave a Comment


Whole Foods is selling rabbit meat and whole frozen rabbits in some part of the country, and activists are protesting. One handout reads, “Rabbits are the 3rd most popular furry companion in the U.S. and have unique personalities just like dogs and cats. They enjoy running, jumping, snuggling with other rabbits and form deep bonds with their humans.”

Whole Foods is defending the sale of rabbits, claiming they are treated humanely: “The rabbits will be raised in pens on solid floors with dry bedding to allow them to socialize, hide, climb, forage and play. The rabbits also have to have continuous access to drinking water, feed, gnawing blocks, tunnels and places for seclusion.”

rabbit meat

The commercial farming of ANY animal for human consumption is inhumane, and it all has to stop – for the sake of the animals and the environment. In the meantime, why are we be protesting the sale of rabbits at Whole Foods if they do, in fact, have better lives than the broiler chickens being sold at the grocery store down the street? Do we think that companion animals deserve to be spared any more than chickens or cows, or are we simply using the “companion animal” rationale because it might be an effective approach to helping at least a few animals?

In our efforts to ban the slaughter of American horses, activists often use the same “companion animal” rationale. While I don’t think that horses or rabbits deserve to live or die any more than other animals, I will nonetheless be thrilled when the slaughter of horses and sale of rabbit meat are banned. (Please sign petition to Whole Foods). I am grateful to activists who campaign against any form of animal abuse. At the end of the day, we’re probably most effective when we pick the battles that resonate most with ourselves.



Filed under: Companion Animals, Food, Opinion
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“Large Dogs” As Status Symbols?

August 15, 2014 by Leave a Comment


When I visited Hong Kong in November 2013, I remember seeing exotic birds and fish being sold in (awful) markets, but I don’t remember seeing dogs anywhere. I didn’t give it any thought at the time because I was so distracted by the 7 million people crammed onto a tiny island – like one big Times Square. But now it makes sense: With its large population and a scarcity of green space (in the developed areas), Hong Kong doesn’t seem dog-friendly at all. So I am surprised and disappointed to read that Hong Kong’s newest status symbol is not just dogs – but large dogs.

Hong Kong has about 10 very upscale shopping malls with the same luxury brands – Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and the like. Some of these malls are situated within a few blocks of each other. Given how prevalent these fancy stores are, people who like to display their wealth but can no longer distinguish themselves in the crowd by wearing a Rolex have resorted to purchasing large dogs, according to China Topix: “Having a large dog is meant to signal that the owner can afford equally spacious homes in a city where luxury apartments cost twice as much as in New York.”

As would be expected from people who buy companion animals for the wrong reason, “Some give up their dogs after these are fully grown, and much larger than the cute puppies they signed up for.” This reminds me of the chihuaha craze triggered by Hollywood socialite Paris Hilton and the movies Legally Blond and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Animal shelters were overrun with chihuahas when people were bored with their dog accessory or were unequipped to care for them. In the U.S., puppy mills flooded the market with chihuahuas to the demand, and the same thing is happening in Hong Kong with large dogs (who, of course, are being raised in poor conditions.)

Sheila McClelland, the founder of the Lifelong Animal Protection Charity, says it best: “Having dogs must be for life, and not just for status.”  To that I would add, please adopt. Buying an animal from a pet store or breeder kills a shelter dog’s chance of finding a home.

Photo: CNN Money

Photo: CNN Money

Filed under: Companion Animals, Opinion
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Wild Dogs Have Better Lives; Domesticating Dogs was a Mistake

August 12, 2014 by Leave a Comment


In a NY Times article about the estimated 7,000 remaining wild dogs in Africa, Dr. Rosie Woodrofe, a researcher who has studied wild dogs for 20 years, says, “There is nothing so enthusiastic as a wild dog. They live the life domestic dogs wish they could live.” As a dog owner, I’m not at all surprised to read that. Wild dogs, who can act on their natural instincts all day long, have wildly productive lives. Researchers say these “exceptionally social” and “civic-minded” dogs hunt, teach their young survival skills and care for the infirm. While one male and female in each pack breed, the remaining adults “serve as guardians, babysitters, even wet nurses for the alpha pair’s pups.” If our companion animals could talk, would they tell us that we should have never domesticated them? I think so. I have a rescue dog — a chihuahua/pug mix. He’s one of the “lucky” ones. I don’t chain him to a fence in the cold, leave him in a hot car, neglect him or abuse him in any way. I walk him four times a day; provide him with nourishment and medical care; play ball with him at least twice a day; and shower him with affection (I’ve been told to “get a room.”) Still, I think he’s bored and out of place. I wouldn’t want his life. Domesticating animals for our pleasure was a big mistake, in my opinion, especially when you consider the rampant abuse, neglect and abandonment. But companion animals are here to stay, and the burden is on us to make their lives as enriched as possible.

Photo: Scott Creel; Montana State University

Photo: Scott Creel; Montana State University

Filed under: Companion Animals, WIldlife
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Activists in China Intercept Five Trucks With 2,400 Butcher-bound Dogs

August 8, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

Using social media, Chinese animal rights activists recruited “thousands” of volunteers to rescue 2,400 dogs on their way to the butcher after spotting the five slaughter-bound trucks on a highway near Beijing. According to the NY Times, the activists and volunteers were “able to surround the trucks, preventing their escape.” Even though dog slaughter is legal in China, the police allowed the activists to take possession of the dogs because many were companion animals who had been kidnapped, and most did not have the proper paperwork.

Photo: Susan Wang

Photo: Susan Wang

News & Opinion

We are so accustomed to vilifying China for being the world’s biggest consumer and/or supplier of fur, shark fins and ivory that we forget to acknowledge the activists who are moving mountains to help animals in China. Providing food, water, medicine and housing to 2,400 dogs on a moment’s notice is a breathtaking feat. Can you imagine if we tried to rescue the thousands of abused chickens stacked in cages in Brooklyn during Kaporos, the pre-Yom Kippur ritual in which religious Jews swing chickens around their heads to transfer their sins to the chickens before slaughtering them? We’d be all be thrown in jail.

Filed under: Companion Animals, Food, Victories
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