Michael Kiok and his partner Cissy have been in a caring relationship for the past seven years, which would be unremarkable if not for the fact that Cissy is a dog.
Angry that Germany wants to criminalize his unusual love affair, Kiok joined other zoophiles at Berlin's Potsdamer Platz on Friday to protest against new legislation banning bestiality.
“I found her advertised in a newspaper after my old dog passed away,” Kiok told The Local, saying the new law was unfair. “We feel like criminals. This is all because of fanatical animal rights demonstrators who think we hurt the animals.”
Late last year, Germany's lower house of parliament made having sex with animals a criminal offence carrying a fine of up to €25,000. The upper house, the Bundesrat, signed off on the measures on Friday, as part of a package of measures aimed at bolstering animal protection.
“We are going to appeal to the highest court,” said Kiok, whose hat was covered in Cissy's hair.
From pack member to partner
He said the all-male group gathered at the protest were all in mutually beneficial relationships with their significant, furry, others and were not – as commonly thought – deviant animal abusers.
Behind Kiok, a female dalmatian nuzzled the lap of a young man as he smiled for photos and answered questions about his lifestyle. His red anorak marked him as a member of ZETA, or Zoophiles Engaging for Tolerance and Enlightenment, a German group lobbying for more acceptance of human-animal relations.
The leaflet the organization put together for the protest says that “animals, which have been domesticated by humans for years, see people as pack members – the step from that to sexual partner is not large.”
Kiok said he could not see how he was committing a crime, if an animal is big enough to protect itself from human sexual advances yet still submits willingly. For him it's love, but in a different package. Despite a few early problems with Kiok's many cats, Cissy soon became part of the family and they have been inseparable ever since.
Fellow protestor Oliver Bordinski was convinced that the German government had made up damning statistics to pursue its anti-bestiality agenda.
“This has all come from propaganda,” he said. “500,000 animals apparently die from sexual abuse each year, which is complete nonsense.”
He said moralists had a distorted image of all zoophiles violently abusing animals with sex toys. “These are the worst lies,” he said.
Kiok nodded beside him, clutching a bundle of leaflets on bestiality. On the front is an attractive woman nose to nose with a dog. Neither of them were at the protest.
“We love animals,” it reads. “We reject any kind of force, violence and abuse and it hurts our souls to see animals suffer.” And this is what ZETA seems so desperate to convey: “We are pro-animal rights but we are being discriminated nevertheless.”
“We cannot do anything about being zoophiles, and so are trying handling our inclinations responsibly,” it concludes.
Bordinski cited societal prejudice as the reason behind the government’s decision.
“We are a minority which is being discriminated and we are going to take this to the courts,” he said, adding he will not be made into a criminal for loving his dog.
Another protestor's dog barked for half an hour at a group of actors brought in by ZETA to garner the group some attention. One, dressed in black robes and wig ran around bemused onlookers, waving chunks of raw meat on the bone.
With bits of fat in his hair and a fake red nose, what he and a woman dressed as a granny eating a fake rabbit were trying to illustrate was not immediately clear but they did draw a crowd.
On Thursday night, there was a screening of a bestiality documentary “Coming Soon” in Berlin. It was followed by a discussion on leading a zoophilic lifestyle.
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“I was there but interestingly none of the animal rights activists showed up,” said a smirking Kiok.
“There's one now,” he said, pointing to a woman in an orange neon vest with “animal rights” printed across it. She didn't approach the men, preferring to hand out her own pamphlets to snickering passers-by.
Although not zoophiles themselves, the production company behind the movie believes the issue isn't as black-and-white as many people think.
“Banning it means that millions of people in Germany are criminalized,” a spokesman from the company told The Local earlier this week. That alone, he said, should make people think about what is or is not a crime.
“It isn't loving animals which is making people freak out,” he said. “It's sexual hysteria.”