Bioethics Blogs

Cory Bernardi is right, in Peter Singer’s anti-human world

Peter Singer is awarded for ideas for which we shun others. Joel Travis Sage

Senator Cory Bernardi has been reviled for associating homosexuality with something repugnant, bestiality. Yet Australia has just awarded its highest civilian honour to a philosopher who provides a moral defence of sex with animals.

Professor Peter Singer, the renowned Australian philosopher at Princeton University, believes that the taboo on bestiality is an anomaly, a prohibition that will crumble like all the others. But in the last Queen’s Birthday honours list he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for “eminent service to philosophy and bioethics”. The award is equivalent to a knighthood in Britain.

In defending “consensual” sex between humans and animals Singer is concerned only with whether the sexual contact is “mutually satisfying”. What it means for an animal to give consent to sex with a human is unclear. Wag your tail three times for a yes, Fido?

And the same criterion of mutual satisfaction could be used to justify sex between adults and children. Indeed, paedophiles have been known to deploy just that argument.

If such a moral universe were to pertain, Bernardi would be quite right to claim that we are on a slippery slope to having sex with animals, a slope on which gay marriage is but a way station. Yet Bernardi is excommunicated for articulating a slippery slope argument while Singer is given its highest honour for celebrating it.

Singer’s advocacy of animal rights and charitable giving has won him a wide following, although most of his supporters seem to agree with his conclusions without grasping the implications of his arguments, which is perhaps why so many, including those who advise the Governor-General, seem willing to pass over his scandalous positions.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.