OddlyEnough at 21 Jun 2006: 03:50
Hmm. Well first, I did not real the previous several hundered posts. I'll just go ahead and post our opinion (which is based on a theory of ethical intuitionism by David McNaughton and Piers Rawling).
I believe that humans have many prima facie moral duties. Among these are duties benificence, respect, non-maleficence, and so on. What determines the rightness and wrongness of an action for a moral agent is based on whether or not it maximally satisfies our duties (they can be satisfied in varying degrees).
I believe that because we cannot obtain consent, we violate a certain kind of duty of respect, one which is not outweighed by the gain in our or others well being (benificence, self-betterment duties). In other words, we have a duty to obtain consent. We cannot do so with an animal (or with other agents such as severely disabled humans), so it is not moral for us to engage in such activites. If animals could give rational consent (perhaps some more intelligent ones can), then it would be acceptable. That an animal merely expresses its desires is not enough. I can express my desire to kill others who have immediately angered me. It is not rational.
There was an argument is a previous post about how persons do not ask for consent in every instance of sexual intercourse. This is not to say that consent is 'understood' without it being explicitly outlined by the parties, nor that it is not obtained at all. I believe the difference may lie in the fact that such consent was previously obtained, and unsterstood to be retained (in appropriate situations) unless revoked or suspended (AKA "Not tonight, honey. I'm tired.")
Other answers and objections leave unsatisfactory results. That an animal 'will not take no for an answer' has very little weight in my mind. The statement seems to state that the animal's desires must be satisfied or physical harm will be visited upon the person. In such a case, a duty of self-preservation could surely enter the picture. If we merely mean to say that the animal is insistent... then one can ignore insistence.
If we consider that what an animal (and willing human) desires and the satisfaction of that desire is good, then there is a sense in which the well-being of an animal matters. If there is a sense in which wellbeing of an animal does matter, then we run into a second problem. (This is based on an argument by Peter Singer.) If the well being of animal has moral worth, then it would surely be wrong to kill them or subject them to 'inhumane' (?) conditions. However, huge numbers of animals are factory farmed each day, forced to live in what could be considered despicable conditions. If there is a sense in which the wellbeing of animals matter, then surely factory farming is wrong, and cannot be justified by the satisfaction of the human palette to the extent that suitable nutrient replacements can be acquired through argiculture. As such, if the well-being of animals matters to you, you are morally obligated to become a vegitarian (or justify the factory farming of animals).
However, the above only applies to real beastiality. Fictional depictions require no consent because there are no parties. There is no prima facie duty against 'obscenity' because such a term is defined by the society in which you reside at whatever time you reside in it. There might be some duty for acting in concert with the rules of one's society, but it seems that such rules exist to improve the well being of society, so it is only to the extent that well-being is improved, which collapses into improvement of well-being duty.
Random thoughts and points after this.
So by my theory, there is sense in which the act of sexual intercourse outside of one's own specie is morally wrong.
It does not require harm or a decrease in well-being to an individual to wrong it. Namely, because wrongs come about when you violate your duties. You have duties of non-maleficence, and are comitting a wrong towards yourself when you violate those duties.
People cannot really determine the state of mind or intent of an animal, despite what they might claim to interpret from observation. This is also true of humans, but we should become radical skeptics because of it, and we do act despite our lack of certainty (which is more true for animals than for humans). This is more of a 'you should note this point' rather than an argument.
Consent cannot be determined by resistance or compliance to action. It must be informed, rational agreement. I would surely instinctually resist a necessary non-anesthetized emergency surgery to save my life, when I might otherwise rationally consent. I would also surely drink a familiar beverage offered to me in an appropriate social setting which contained a lethal poison, nor any other substance. Otherwise, one must agree that is is moral for me to kill a person with a knife which he believes to be a stage prop to be used in theatre, simply because he shows a willingness or mere lack of resistance. That is not enough.
What defines whether or not a human is of sufficient mental capabilites to given ratioal consent? I don't know. Our society in the USA says 18. That might or might not be true, so we may or may not be acting morally. It seems a large disagreement on these boards is on the definition of consent, so let me rephrase. Replace every instance of consent in my argument above with 'rational, informed consideration with the current state of affairs and all relevant options, and the choice of one such option.'
*lets out breath, inhales*
ZOMG BLOCKS OF TEXT LOLOLOL11!!i!1!one!
Seriously, even reading the first 200 posts was a pain. And then I just added to it. =P Might as well give myself a monniker if I am going to participate. And please, forgive my typos.