Danish lawmakers approved the ban on Tuesday in a 91-75 vote.
After the law goes into effect on July 1, anyone found guilty of engaging in sexual relations with an animal will face fines and prison terms.
Denmark’s law previously allowed bestiality provided the animal was not harmed. But opponents of the law had attacked the provision, pointing out that it was often difficult to establish objectively that animals subjected to human sexual intercourse were not harmed.
Supporters of the legislation argued that it had become necessary to pass the law because, being one of the few northern European countries where bestiality was legal, the country was attracting animal sex tourists seeking to exploit the lax regulations.
An independent advisory body to the food and agricultural ministry, the Danish Ethical Council for Animals, said in a recent report that because of the inadequacy of existing laws against bestiality, there were “frequent reports of occurrences of organized animal sex shows, clubs and animal brothels in Denmark.”
The report, however, admitted that it was often difficult to confirm allegations.
But Bengt Holst, head of the council, said that an amendment to existing laws was necessary to strengthen protection for animals.
The Daily Mail reports that an investigation conducted about a decade ago by the Danish newspaper 24timer, found that some owners were openly advertising their animals to provide services for fees that varied depending on how the customer wished to be served.
It is generally understood that the internet has helped to promote animal sex tourism by providing forums for people interested in having sex with animals to meet, exchange information, and socialize.
According to RT, a 2011 report by the country’s Justice Ministry found that 17 percent of veterinarians that participated in a survey said they have had reasons in the past to believe that an animal they treated had been a victim of sexual abuse by humans.
Before approving the new law, legislators had debated the question whether existing provisions under the Animal Welfare Act were adequate to protect animals against sexual abuse.
Dan Jorgensen, the country’s Farm Minister, had expressed the view in a published opinion piece that the law did not offer enough protection to animals and recommended that it should be strengthened.
He was previously quoted as saying that animal sex offenders in the country “must be made aware that we find maltreatment of animals absolutely unacceptable.”
“The current legislation does not protect the animals enough. It’s hard to prove that an animal suffers when a human has sexual intercourse with it, and that is why we must give the animal the benefit of the doubt.”
Groups that spearheaded the campaign for a legislation banning bestiality included People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The group petitioned Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the Farm Minister Jorgensen, demanding amendment of existing laws to strengthen protection for animals.
Opponents of the new law, such as the libertarian Liberal Alliance, have criticized it.
Joachim Olsen of the Liberal Alliance commented, “Best case, this is a superficial law. Worst case, it is political populism and moralism.”
Sweden, Norway, Germany and Britain had previously banned bestiality. With Denmark having imposed a ban on bestiality, Hungary, Finland and Romania are now the last countries in the EU where bestiality remains legal.
In the U.S. laws governing bestiality vary across states. For instance, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Ohio do not have laws prohibiting animal sex.
[Image: Wikimedia Commons]