'Zoophiles', as they call themselves, often claim that committing sexual acts with animals is okay because animals are capable of consenting, either by sexual displays (lifting tails, humping hapless human legs, etc), or by not biting/fighting back, or by allowing the human access to them, so to speak. The problem I have with this is that an animal can't attribute the same idea to sex as a human can - for a human sex may be bound up with love and other types of emotions where by and large for animals it is another biological duty. In my opinion that would mean that there is no real consent between an animal and a human because the two are essentially contemplating a different act. Am I missing something here? And is there any validity in the idea that it is wrong to engage in sex with animals because for most humans it is intuitively wrong? If it doesn't really harm anyone - if the animal is unscathed - does that make the whole argument pointless?

I haven’t given much thought to the ethics of sex between humans and non-humans, but it seems to me that the fact that sex between humans requires consent does not imply that sex involving non-human animals requires consent. We require consent in sexual relations between human beings because we believe that making informed choices about intimate relationships is a significant good for human beings. Such choices cannot be part of a good life for non-human animals because such animals are permanently incapable of making them. That’s not to say that non-human animals are to be used as one pleases; it’s simply to say that whether consent occurs or does not occur cannot be a relevant consideration.

Why is human life valued more than animal life in the absence of religion? Are arguments based on our being intelligent or sentient valid, after all we make the rules. If you could ask an elephant it might offer other criteria to value species by.

This question is extremely difficult to answer, because to answer itsatisfactorily, we must first settle the question of the nature ofmorality. Morality proposes certain norms for our behavior and perhapsalso for our emotional responses to certain events. But unless weknow what these norms are for ,we can’t know whether or whywe should care about such norms. And unless we know what such norms arefor, we can’t know whether any proposed moral norm, such as “treatevery creature’s pleasure and pain as if it has equal importance,” iscorrect. If we thought, for example, that moral norms served thefunction of governing our behavior according to the will of God, thenwe would attempt to determine the correct moral norms by attempting toget information about the will of God. If, to consider anotherpossibility, we thought that moral norms served the function ofconstraining human behavior so as to allow for the sociallycooperative behavior that is essential to human flourishing, then wewould look to other sorts of...