PETA Rebukes White House for 'Flippantly' Dismissing Question on Senate's Vote to Legalize Bestiality in Military

December 8, 2011 - 12:53 PM

Jay Carney

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has written a letter to White House Press Secrtary Jay Carney rebuking him for "flippantly" dismissing a question he was asked at Monday's press briefing about last week's Senate vote approving a bill that would repeal the military's ban on bestiality.

PETA has also written to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asking him to make sure that language is added to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to prohibit both bestiality and cruelty to animals.

A provision in the Defense authorization bill that passed the Senate last week by a 93-to-7 vote would strip the provision from the UCMJ that currently prohibits sodomy and bestiality.

In a letter to Carney, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk told the White House spokesman that the animal rights group was upset that Carney laughingly dismissed a reporter's question asking about the commander-in-chief’s position on bestiality.

(See CNSNews.com's story on the question and Carney’s response.)

"In watching last night's news briefing, we were upset to note that you flippantly addressed the recently approved repeal of the military ban on bestiality," Newkirk writes. "As we outlined in the attached letter sent yesterday to the Secretary of Defense, animal abuse does not affect animals only--it is also a matter of public safety, as people who abuse animals very often go on to abuse human beings."

"[M]illions of Americans are upset that animals no longer have even minimal protections under the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice]," the PETA president wrote.

"We hope that the public outcry against this inadvertent lapse will inspire the military to take action to make sure that it will be able to fully and appropriately serve and protect all Americans--human and nonhuman alike," Newkirk said.

In a separate letter, Newkirk told Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that "an emergency exists" and asked Panetta for his "immediate intervention” in the bestiality situation.

“PETA is being inundated with complaints regarding the inadvertent removal of an anti-bestiality provision from the Uniform Code of Military Justice, stripping away what minimal protection the UCMJ afforded “non-public” (i.e., non-service) animals,” the letter said.

“This change means that bestiality charges can now be filed only at the discretion of superior officers--under a catch-all provision of the UCMJ prohibiting behavior unbecoming a service member,” Newkirk added.

The animal-rights organization lectured the defense secretary on the dangers of animal abuse and its linkage with sexual assault on humans.

“On behalf of our millions of U.S. members, as well as those overseas where our military also serves, we ask that you please act immediately to establish a policy of zero tolerance for cruelty to animals by adding a section to the UCMJ prohibiting cruelty--including bestiality--to non-public animals,” she wrote.

The repeal of the military law against sodomy and sex with animals was contained in the 926-page Department of Defense authorization bill that the Senate passed last Thursday evening. Page 174 of the bill includes the provision headlined in capital letters: “REPEAL OF SODOMY ARTICLE.”  Click here to see a PDF of the page.

The provision states: “Section 925 of such title (article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice) is repealed.”

Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which anyone can find by doing a Google search, says: “(a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense. (b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

(Click here to see the language of the provision as posted on Uniform Code of Military Justice Web site).

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(Here is text of PETA's letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta)

December 5, 2011

The Honorable Leon Panetta

Secretary of Defense

United States Department of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Mr. Secretary:

An emergency exists, and we ask for your immediate intervention. PETA is being inundated with complaints regarding the inadvertent removal of an anti-bestiality provision from the Uniform Code of Military Justice, stripping away what minimal protection the UCMJ afforded “non-public” (i.e., non-service) animals. This change means that bestiality charges can now be filed only at the discretion of superior officers—under a catch-all provision of the UCMJ prohibiting behavior unbecoming a service member.

As you no doubt know, mental-health professionals and law-enforcement agencies consider cruelty to animals a red flag in the psychiatric repertoire of antisocial and sociopathic behavior. The American Psychiatric Association identifies all forms of animal abuse as diagnostic criteria for conduct disorders, and the FBI uses reports of animal abuse in analyzing the threat potential of suspected and known criminals. Further, a 2002 study by Jory, Flemming, and Burton shows that 96 percent of offenders who had engaged in bestiality also admitted to sexual assaults on humans. Animal abuse is very much an issue of community safety, and the degree to which we take these crimes seriously can be measured by the strength of our laws.

On behalf of our millions of U.S. members, as well as those overseas where our military also serves, we ask that you please act immediately to establish a policy of zero tolerance for cruelty to animals by adding a section to the UCMJ prohibiting cruelty—including bestiality—to non-public animals.

Our office stands ready to assist you in any way possible. May we hear from you soon?

Very truly yours,

Ingrid Newkirk, President