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crimes against animals still not illegal

Sweden fails to implement bestiality laws

Published tisdag 21 augusti 2012 kl 15.09
"As much value as humans"
(2:31 min)
Photo: Amy Sancetta/Scanpix

Bestiality is not an illegal offence in Sweden, at least not yet. While veterinarians and animal rights organisations have been trying to change the law, various authorities here say that implementing a prohibition would be a complicated process.

Cases of bestiality pose challenges to existing police methods for investigating crimes. Today, the sexual assault of an animal is classed as cruelty to animals, but it is uncommon for anyone to be charged with the crime because courts require evidence that the animal has suffered in the attack.

Thomas Eriksson is in charge of animal-related crimes at the Swedish Police. He tells Swedish Radio News that more sophisticated DNA methods are needed to gather crucial evidence in the case of crimes against animals, as the animals can not provide spoken testimonies.

"In order to get someone convicted of a crime like this, we need DNA evidence. And as it stands today, the state forensic laboratories simply aren't accustomed to analyzing animal DNA," Eriksson says.

Earlier this year, an investigation into the issue presented its conclusions in support of making all kinds of bestiality a punishable crime in Sweden. However, the study showed that in order for that to be possible, changes need to be made to the systems that deal with these kinds of crimes.

And according to Johan Beck-Friis, head of information at the Swedish Veterinary Association, making those changes is not much of a priority.

"There's not much interest in how to go about it, nor is there much knowledge. We don't have good methods for analyzing the evidence, like the crime scenes, DNA traces or the animal's physical injuries," he says.

While the legal framework still needs to be adjusted, there are many who would welcome a ban on bestiality.

A few years ago reports that a goat had been sexually assaulted on the Vissmålen 4-H farm in Huskvarna in southern Sweden led to great outrage, when no perpetrator was ever able to be legally charged.

Maria Stigsson from the 4-H farm told Swedish Radio News that animal rights need to be protected by the law.

"Animals have as much value as humans", she says. "They haven't chosen to be locked up and for us to limit their natural behavior. They've been raised to trust humans, she goes on, and for them to be put through something like this is horrible."

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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