“The government is now toughening bestiality laws so that there is no doubt that it’s prohibited to abuse animals,” Rural Affairs Minister Eskil Erlandsson said in a statement.
“There should be no doubt whatsoever that bestiality is unacceptable.”
Until now, bestiality was illegal in Sweden only if it could be proven that the animal had been subjected to suffering.
Starting on January 1st, 2014, however, any sexual act with an animal will be punishable by a fine, a maximum prison sentence of two years, or both, even if the animal shows no sign of injury or suffering.
“I hope that this sort of act doesn’t take place in society at all. And now we’re putting that explicitly into law,” Erlandsson told the TT news agency.
In 2008, Erlandsson came in for criticism for using graphic language during a debate on the floor of parliament in an attempt to describe the difficulty of legislating against bestiality.
While he first expressed his “disgust” for anyone who has sex with animals, Erlandsson continued to offer a graphic example to demonstrate that “what counts as sexual abuse of animals” isn’t always easy to define, much to the surprise of fellow MPs.
“It was distasteful. It sunk to a horrendously low level. I don’t think one needs to discuss details like that in the Riksdag,” Social Democrat MP Monica Green told the Aftonbladet newspaper at the time.
“He mixed up people’s sexuality with animals’ sexuality. His example was also appalling.”
While it’s been nearly 18 months since the government first commissioned an inquiry into the bestiality ban, news that the law was finally on its way came as welcome news to Sweden’s veterinarians.
“It’s very important that society makes a clear statement that it is unacceptable to use animals that way,” he said.
The ban will bring Sweden in line with a European Union directive.
Germany introduced a ban in December, following in the footsteps of Britain, France, and Switzerland among others.
The Swedish parliament is expected to pass the bill into law soon, as there is broad political consensus on the issue.
According to Beck-Friis, under the current law veterinarians may suspect that an animal has been sexually abused but they are generally unable to prove it.
As a result, there are no statistics available on how common bestiality is in the country.
In 2006, the latest year for which statistics are available, about 100 cases of animals suffering injuries suspected of being related to bestiality were brought to the authorities’ attention, Beck-Friis said.