Cold Open

Narrator: I have a question for you. And I want you to really think about it before you answer. How good are you at keeping secrets?

You’re probably overestimating.

Imagine for a second that someone offers to tell you a secret, and that as long as nobody else finds out, you get to enjoy access to whatever that knowledge grants. And it happens to be something you really want. What would that be?

Influence? Money? Friends? Membership? …Acceptance?

Could you do it?

Oh, but there’s a catch. You have to tell them one of your own secrets first. Something you wouldn’t dare tell anybody, because if it got out, it could destroy you. “Don’t worry about it,” they say, “It’s so we can trust each other.” Or maybe it goes, “It’s just to prove you’re for real.”

Or maybe it sounds more like… “Now neither of us will talk, because we’ll both be ruined.”

Still feeling confident?

That’s not trust. It’s a form of mutual assured destruction. A shortcut people take to try to mitigate risk and get what they want, by exchanging threats instead of building trust.

Sure, maybe everything turns out fine in the end. But what happens if the other guy starts breaking the rules, because they’re sure you won’t sacrifice yourself to stop them? What if you’re not the only one who would be hurt? 

What if somebody else was forcing them?

So, now you’re in a bad-faith agreement that depends on everyone doing exactly what they said they would do, forever. And if someone gets out of line, you only have two options.

Suck it up… or bring down the whole house of cards.

Ironic, isn’t it? The best outcome requires trust that nobody earned.

I bet this sounds pretty familiar now, but if not, remember all the cautionary tales from your childhood? All the cartoons and fables about things like finding a magic lamp and making your friends lie for you so you can marry a princess… and when you were older, movies and crime dramas about mob bosses and cults and forbidden lovers… and… history. Hate groups and fascist militias and… nuclear war.

And all the words they used for those agreements, like “honor” and “faith” and “protocol” as substitutes for trust.

And how someone end up trapped, and fighting to get out. How can you even do that?

On this episode of Zooier than Thou, we’re telling the true story of a fellow zoophile who found themselves in exactly this predicament, starting with where it all began, how it spun out of control, progressed to blackmail, and eventually violence. And the personal cost of escaping. We’ve had to change some details to protect them of course, but that fits with the theme of the episode. We’ll ask why mutual assured destruction used to be the way that zoos networked, explore the effects that it had on our community, and discuss how we think we can do better today by doing things right, by building trust. And a warning to listeners: some details of this story are disturbing. You already know our show’s not for kids, but this one is not for the faint of heart.

Stay tuned for Season Four, Episode Two of Zooier Than Thou: Going MAD.

Part 1

Narrator: The year is 1995. Microsoft had just released Internet Explorer to compete against the more popular Netscape Navigator, dialup modems could download at a whopping 33.6 kilobits per second, and Stuart Adams had finally saved up enough money to buy his first computer for a cool $3500. It was here, still living with his parents in Sydney, that Stuart first found the burgeoning online zoophile community.

Stuart: My entry point was the muds, mucks, telnet talkers, IRC. It was a revelation at the time to finally find other zoos just like me. To know I wasn’t alone. To know I wasn’t a monster. To know zoos weren’t monsters. It changed my whole life just to find others to talk to and just seeing they were regular ordinary people across the world and with a range of vocations and interests.

Narrator: Filled with a new sense of identity and purpose, Stuart dove headlong into the online community. Most of the people he met were young, like him, still in their late teens and early twenties, accessing the internet while at university or on the family computer. But there was an older crowd that stood out above the rest. These were the established zoos, elder members of the community who seemed to have everything a zoo could desire: their own homes, their own animals, and a wealth of sexual experience they were more than willing to share with the wide-eyed, longing new members still trying to navigate their sexuality.

Stuart: It seemed this far off, impossible dream, but they were living it. I wasn’t even sure at this stage if I was ready to do anything with animals myself, for real. I hadn’t figured it out yet in my head, so I was kinda awestruck, kinda scared, but my desire to do those things was strong.

Narrator: While Stuart and the other fledgling members of these online spaces looked up at these older, more experienced zoos with awe and admiration, Stuart couldn’t help but feel that these same elders looked down on them. For those living the dream, a zoophile wasn’t a zoophile until they had experience. The solution was simple, they suggested: move out, buy a house, and get your own animals. But for those coming of age in the 90s, the sure footing that allowed Baby Boomers to purchase their own homes right out of high school was already beginning to wear away.

Stuart: I used to resent the established zoos a lot.

Interviewer: How come?

Stuart: Well, these were boomers, thinking back on the time frame now, born in the 40s and 50s, and everything was easy for them to get or achieve. I pledged to never be like them. I pledged to never take what I achieved for granted, and to never view another zoo as somehow lesser if they hadn’t or couldn’t reach a life with animals of their own.

Narrator: As Stuart navigated online zoo spaces throughout the 90’s, another cultural division became clear.

Stuart: The community split other ways around species. Mostly dog vs horse. Canid vs equine. But there were strong dolphin and bigcat groups too.

Interviewer: How did that split manifest itself in the community?

Stuart: Well, you could almost rank the groups in likelihood of ever doing anything for real, with big cat types and more exotic animals living the most far off in fantasy land. Dolphin types sometimes found their kin. Equine types, well, there were less of them than dog types but they were always the loudest, and craziest, and seemed to have no shortage of experiences. Dog types had the most experiences of all, of course. And experience was how you measured things, or at least that’s how I remembered it. If you had experience with animals you were a somebody. If you didn’t you were a nobody.

Narrator: In spite of the social hierarchy that Stuart began to perceive, he found the community overall welcoming and friendly.

Stuart: Every community has its loudmouths and abrasive types, but I learned a lot about how people loved their animals, and how they formed entire lives around them, something I had very little experience of in any respect.

Narrator: Throughout the 90s and into the early 2000s, Stuart spent most of his time online in zoo IRC channels and newsgroups, absorbing the social trends, the debates, and the interpersonal drama of a community trying to find its identity in the face of overwhelming stigma.

Stuart: I remember seeing how people would arrive new into the communities, open and eager, but over time they’d get more savvy and careful and talk much less freely. We were all pretty naive back then though, it was a simpler time. 

Narrator: Over time, new platforms usurped old ones. User handles appeared, participated, and were abandoned. There was a woman who went on to become a famous furry artist. There was a man who went on the Jerry Springer show with his horse. There was a zoo who stole his neighbor’s dog and ran away with her because he believed she was being mistreated. Stuart watched all of these things from the sidelines, anonymous and disconnected in the South Pacific, trying to keep up with contacts across different community websites by maintaining the same handle throughout.

Stuart: I wanted so much to make friends, to make connections, to be found. I wanted so much to be seen. Increasingly I wanted to have sex with animals for real too. It’s not that I dismissed the romantic part, you see, but I couldn’t yet see any kind of a life with me and a dog, or any animal. I’d had a lot of time to think about it, and decide that it was ethical, and decide that it was for me, and I wanted it desperately, but I didn’t know anyone with animals near me, let alone anyone who would trust me with their animals.

Narrator: A decade passed, and Stuart had made great strides in his own mental health and self-acceptance. But his lack of experience gnawed at him, like an itch that grew harder and harder to ignore. 

Stuart: The older zoos always made me feel like I was missing out. Always made me feel like I was lesser. A part of me wanted to prove myself in their eyes. To show them I wasn’t just some hopeless case.

Interviewer: So even though you’d been around for a decade, people still didn’t accept you as a full-fledged zoo?

Stuart: Don’t get me wrong. Most zoos didn’t make me feel like I had to do the deed to fit in, but a lot did. And I wanted to do the deed. I wanted it more and more as time passed. Plus, my sex life with humans had hardly been stellar either, and frustration doesn’t make for good decision making.

Narrator: Sexually frustrated and eager to prove himself, Stuart connected with a zoo in Queensland who offered to meet with him so Stuart could have his first experience with a canine companion. But there were rules, and penalties for breaking those rules. 

Stuart: This guy had an actual rulebook he’d made explaining how things would be if I was to visit, the rules that needed to be respected. Literally, a rulebook.

Interviewer: What kind of rules were there?

Stuart: So for instance, he required my name and address before he’d give out his name and address for meeting. I could film stuff or he could film stuff for me while I was there, on the condition he kept a copy and that I wasn’t to share the film or photos with anyone.

Interviewer: And what if you broke the rules?

Stuart: If I broke the rules, he was to release my name, address, and the film material in public. Which, at the time, seemed fair enough. After all, he was putting his house, his name, his dog at risk. I was just the desperate kid wanting to turn up and get dogfucked. 

Narrator: There was a price to pay to get what he so desperately craved, and the Queensland zoo held all the cards. Stuart felt he was at his mercy, and the exchange of information seemed like a reasonable bargain. But as the date grew closer, Stuart began to have doubts. Having sex with an animal was a big line to cross, one he couldn’t undo after the fact. And he’d never met another zoo in real life before. What would they be like in person, this relative stranger willing to offer up their animal companion to someone else in exchange for mementos of the occasion? And what if there was a falling out? If this zoo had his name and address, he could turn up at his parent’s house with a videotape in hand. The night before his fateful trip, Stuart called the whole thing off. 

Stuart: He was pretty upset about that. I was never sure what exactly was in it for him, but I guess he liked to watch. We did eventually meet years later and got on okay. I never had to enter that deal, but it still felt like I dodged a bullet.

Narrator: Meanwhile, Stuart’s consistency was beginning to pay off. He’d made something of a name for himself in Anthrochat, a furry IRC network, and people began to recognize him by name on other furry platforms. Stuart was not shy about his sexuality, speaking openly in these forums about his interests.

Stuart: I generally tried to live an open life. It was an important part of self-therapy to be open and unashamed of who I was, in many aspects. I wanted to be liked for who I was, not who I pretended to be. And if I ended up hated for who I was too, so be it. 

Narrator: But being out as a zoo left Stuart open to the potential for harm, should a malicious actor set their sights on him.

Stuart: It relied on me living a clean life, a life where the ‘worst’ thing about me was that I was unashamedly zoo, and I thought that I did, at least at first.

Narrator: In 2007, 12 years after first discovering the online zoo community while still living with his parents, Stuart finally had his dream come true. 

Stuart: A guy invited me to meet him and his dog, on neutral ground. I’d known him a good while. I liked him and we had some chemistry. And he didn’t ask for anything in return. We met, we saw each other’s faces, and I jacked off his dog.

Narrator: In contrast to his experience with the Queensland zoo, there was no required exchange of information, no set of rules to follow, no punishment for breaking the agreed-upon covenant. There were no expectations for sexual interaction, only a promise to meet up and see where things went from there.

Stuart: I had been transformed by my first ever zoo experience and was in a kind of euphoria. I felt very grateful to him and his dog. It felt like a bonding experience. This was one of the few times it felt healthy, as we asked nothing of one another, and sharing dirt wasn’t a prerequisite to any experiences or opportunities. Another few years down the line it was another person I’d known a while, and we’d already shared social time round each other’s houses before he trusted me to play with his dog. This was organic. This was healthy. I never asked, and it was up to his dog to make the first move. I was lucky and I knew it.

Narrator: As Stuart made more connections, more and more opportunities opened up for him.

Stuart: I built connections. I travelled. I had lucky experiences with people’s dogs, and I wasn’t asked to throw myself under the bus, just show up. I was gradually transforming from a no-hoper ‘nobody’ zoo, to a more experienced ‘somebody’ zoo, whom the zoo elders of old might finally give the time of day to. I had however developed an unfortunate habit of counting my worth, as a zoo, by my experiences and connections.

Narrator: But there was something missing. As Stuart spent more time around other zoos and their animal companions, he began to yearn for something he couldn’t fulfill with sex alone.

Stuart: In my finally spending time around people with dogs, while the sex was amazing, it was the companionship, the relationship, that served to underline what I was truly missing. I remember shifting from want to need. Hanging out, walking, petting, cuddling, this was a world I couldn’t even imagine before experiencing it. So it drove me and drove me, until finally my life was in order, I’d moved out of my parent’s house, and I was bringing my first dog home. That’s when everything changed.

Narrator: Stuart had finally arrived. He was a zoo with his own home and his own dog, a member of the upper echelons of the community.

Stuart: I had suddenly ascended to a higher plane, somehow, and a whole new set of doors opened for me. There were zoos I’d heard about, but rarely encountered, for one simple reason – they didn’t generally talk to or engage with anyone who didn’t have an animal of their own. They didn’t find it worth the risk or worth the time to engage with anyone who hadn’t reached that level yet. And suddenly for the first time they were willing to talk to me.

Narrator: Stuart suddenly found himself in the company of the who’s who of the zoo community, people who were at the center of the social scene, people who knew everyone and who held the keys to a wealth of opportunities, experiences, and connections.

Stuart: I met these people where they lived, and I had sex with their animals, if they were cool with it.

Interviewer: Well, wait a minute, what about your dog? Did you ever —

Stuart: Oh, I want to be clear – my own dog wasn’t offered up as some kind of bargaining chip for sex in return. It was never like that. It was the fact I had a dog at all that opened the door. Their motive, it seemed, was share and share alike, build friends, build networks. And these people knew people. I wanted to get to know people, too. I wanted to network too. These were my main routes in for any of that.

Narrator: Being associated with high-profile zoos carried a certain amount of prestige, and Stuart found himself becoming prominent in the community himself.

Stuart: I tried to remember my early days in the community, my no-hoper days, my ‘nobody’ days, where I resented the established zoos, where I never wanted to take all of my achievements for granted, where I never wanted to judge other zoos as lesser for not being where I was yet. But I developed a certain impatience about people.

Interviewer: What changed?

Stuart: It had taken me an extremely long time to get to where I had, and in the end, a continual push to change my whole life until it revolved around my dog was what it took. I saw other people unwilling to put in the time, unwilling to put in the changes, and then complaining about their lack of a good life, their lack of a dog. They didn’t want to hear what it took, they just wanted things to fall into their lap. I never felt my circumstances came about easily. I felt they were very hard to achieve, I was never dismissive or minimizing in what was needed. But increasingly I had no time for those who seemingly wouldn’t, rather than couldn’t get there. The other thing is, when you have an animal companion, it becomes really clear that sex is maybe 30 minutes out of your day. That’s 23 and a half hours of everything else that comes with that commitment. Walking, playing, making sure they’re living the best lives possible. Like I said, this isn’t something I really grasped before I had an animal of my own, and once you’re in a relationship like that, the people without animals sometimes seem like they just don’t get it. It can be hard to relate to them anymore.

Interviewer: So it’s no longer all about sex.

Stuart: Right. I mean, I think sex is important. And there’s nothing wrong with having sex, or wanting sex. But without that perspective, the 23 and a half hours where everything else that’s not sex matters, it starts to seem like that’s all you care about.

Interviewer: We have talked a lot about the sexual aspects of your life.

Stuart: I think that’s just where it starts for a lot of people. We’re dumb, horny teenagers, or young adults, who desperately want to get laid. But you grow into seeing that there’s more to it than that. And you know, maybe that’s part of the reason some of the more established zoos were cagey about talking to us nobody zoos. If you don’t know what it means to take care of an animal, how can you appreciate the commitment it takes? Sex never stops being a part of your life, but it stops being the only thing that matters.

Narrator: Meanwhile, Stuart found himself with no shortage of opportunities for sex with animals of a variety of species. He networked with zoos all over the world, even traveling across the Pacific to meet zoos in America and visit their farms. These well-connected zoos knew everyone on a first name basis. Everyone was in the same boat, and that boat was kept afloat by a sense that if any one person went down, the whole vessel would sink. An exchange of personal information was customary to gain access to these social circles, and Stuart found himself friends on Facebook with high-profile zoos across Australia, Europe and North America. 

Stuart: I could afford to be a bit more choosy now. I wanted friends, I wanted connections, but moreso with people who also had animals. I didn’t exclude those who didn’t, but I put less effort into those who didn’t. At the same time I increasingly adopted the zoo community ways of mutually assured destruction. If you were building a relationship with a zoo, if you both had animals, you both were sexually active with them, you both had something to lose, it somehow made things feel more tenable. To the point you’d gravitate towards people who had more to lose. They had more skin in the game so they were a safer bet to get to know. Surely. Personal details would soon follow, and you had a pact, a seemingly reinforced bond over and above what you might otherwise have. It even became a bit of an impulse, if you had a good vibe about someone, and you wanted to really show you were serious, you’d throw your personal details at them. There you go. I showed you mine, I’m not some rando, you’ll probably show me yours too.

Interviewer: This never struck you as dangerous?

Stuart: Well, after all, what zoo would ever backstab another, in this scenario? What zoo would risk blowing up the ground beneath their feet? It was unthinkable. You have to remember, too, the climate we were in. Antibestiality laws were being passed left and right. When you force a community underground like that, everyone you know’s got a dirty little secret that could unravel their entire lives. We were all sharing that same burden, and the most valuable thing you have in that situation is your own identity. You don’t need trust, you just need to know that if you go down, everyone else is coming with you.

Narrator: Meanwhile, rumors were brewing about some of the major players in the community. Just before leaving for a trip to Germany for a large gathering of zoos, one of Stuart’s local friends pulled him aside and warned him not to make the trip.

Stuart: He told me that my friend Felix in Germany was involved in some very dark stuff, animal torture and trafficking of animals. I knew he had some dark fantasies, but I’d never had a reason to believe there was more to it than that.

Interviewer: Did you not think it was… a red flag? That this guy told you he was into some dark stuff, and then someone else warns you that it’s real?

Stuart: Even if I believed there was anything there beyond fantasies, which I didn’t want to believe, I was long past being able to do anything about it. He had everything on me. He knew where I lived. He’d met my friends, family, colleagues, and me vice versa. We were fully entangled. There were other friends I had, through these networks, with similar issues surrounding them. People I felt uneasy about. People I knew some things about. People I’d been warned about.

Interviewer: Why not heed your friend’s warnings?

Stuart: I didn’t want to hear any of it because I didn’t want to risk my networks of people, but also I didn’t feel able to do anything about it. I was complacent but also scared.

Interviewer: Scared of what?

Stuart: Scared of ever giving them a reason to turn on me. Scared of hearing anything worse about them. Scared of what people might think about my associations with them. Scared of mutually assured destruction. So I did what I’d always done, ignore the problem and carry on and assume things would always stay swept under the rug, as they always did.

Narrator: Then, in September of 2018, the second largest zoo account on Twitter posted its final string of messages before going dark. In it, the leaked telegram logs of Levi Dane Simmons, otherwise known as Nelizar, unveiled a vast network of animal and child abusers hiding just beneath the surface of the furry and zoo communities, and nothing would ever be the same.

Narrator 2: When we come back, we’ll follow Stuart as he reckons with the revelations of the zoosadist leaks and with his own inability to act in the face of mutual assured destruction. Stay tuned for more Zooier Than Thou, right after this.

Part 2

Narrator: In 1945, the US ended World War 2 on the Pacific front by dropping two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ushering in the era of nuclear warfare. While the second World War saw incredible technological advances, never before had weapons capable of such catastrophic destruction been developed. And for a few years, the US was the only superpower capable of wielding such devastating power, leveraging its stockpile of arms to keep other countries in line. Then, on August 29th, 1949, the Soviet Union tested their first atomic bomb, named “First Lightning,” and an arms race began. As nuclear missiles piled up around the globe, it eventually became clear that if any one side were to launch a nuclear attack on the other, the retaliation would be swift and deadly. Not only this, but the sheer number of weapons and their ability to wipe entire cities off the face of the planet assured complete and total annihilation on both sides. By the 1960’s, the United States had formally adopted a policy of Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD. This wasn’t a new concept — it had been described nearly a century earlier by inventors and authors alike. In 1937, Nikola Tesla proposed his charged particle beam weapon as “a superweapon that would put an end to all war.” Suddenly, there was an overabundance of superweapons strategically placed across the globe. Every nation had a gun pointed at their head, reminding them of the imminent doom that faced them if they dared pull the trigger in their hands.

MAD was the policy of two super-powerful nations trying to prevent global annihilation. So how did such a concept become common parlance in the zoophile community? Why did we begin invoking mutual assured destruction as a basis for building a community? Was it even intentional?

Interviewer: Why do you think the community fell into the habit of utilizing a policy of Mutual Assured Destruction?

Stuart: I’m not sure. I never stopped to question it or even reflect on it until very recently. It was a thing you did. Perhaps an extension of the coming out process itself, when you tell a real life friend you’re gay or zoo, you’re throwing that factoid over the wall at them, something they could use to directly harm you. It’s not quite the same, but it felt similar. A leap of faith, usually based on gut instinct, when you’ve known someone a while and got a good feel about them. But it’s been a long time since I did that and it kinda feels alien to me now. It’s hard to remember the exact thought processes. 

Interviewer: Do you think it’s always been like that?

Stuart: I’m not sure how long it was a thing, or if it predated my time. Being a zoo can feel very lonely. All at once you’re bombarded with names and new friends online where you share such an important bond, while at the same time they might be on the opposite side of the world and maybe you’ll never meet. You finally know kindred spirits but they’re so far away. You yearn for connections, something deeper, because while having zoo in common is a big deal, it might be the only thing you have in common — that you know of — and the enforced anonymity prevents more, or the possibility of more.

(short pause)

Interviewer: In your time with Calzoo, did you see zoos engaging with each other on the basis of sharing dirt? Like, the idea that “I know everything about you, so if you fuck me over, we’re both going down.”

Steeeve: I never heard anyone say or do anything of the sort, although of course any of us could’ve outed any of the rest of us at any time.

Interviewer: Do you feel like people shared this stuff openly and freely about themselves without thinking about how that information could be used against them, or was there some knowledge of shared risk in knowing this information about one another?

Steeeve: Probably both, unspoken knowledge of mutually assured destruction, and general goodwill toward zoos.

Interviewer: Why do you think that our community fell into the habit of mutual assured destruction?

Steeeve: Well, it’s kind of like closeted military personnel I met at the gay bar. I knew they were there and queer, they knew I was there and queer, nobody wanted to be outed, so nobody outed someone who could out them back. Plus, it would’ve been deeply uncool. The outer would’ve been ostracized.

Narrator: When you’re a part of a community that’s forced underground, there’s an unspoken understanding that everyone is risking something by taking a part in it. Mutually Assured Destruction may not be the de jure policy, written out in a rulebook like the Queensland zoo that offered Stuart his first chance at experience, but rather a subconscious state of affairs reinforced by social stigma, by cautionary tales of outed zoos losing their animals, their families, their livelihoods. And MAD works, so long as everyone’s willing to play along, so long as everyone is striving for the same goal. But what happens when someone understands the game that everyone else is playing and decides to exploit the system for their own gain? What happens when secrets become a currency, and your place on the totem pole depends on who you know and how much you’re willing to share? In 2018, the foundation the community had built itself upon began to crumble when someone decided to stop playing the game, and Stuart Adams found himself at the center of the devastation, linked inexorably to every prominent player on the board.

(some music for a moment before continuing)

Narrator: When the zoosadist leaks first dropped, things were quiet, and it almost seemed like they might get overlooked, washed away by the endless tide of tweets that characterizes the ephemeral nature of Twitter. But it wasn’t long before prominent accounts took notice and boosted the signal across furry Twitter, and consequently, across zoo Twitter. 

Stuart: I found myself with a laundry list of friends, associates, people I’d heard of, into hurting animals, either doing it for real or trading porn of it or associating with either of those types. It took me a while to update to the new reality. The entire calculus of the zoo community had changed forever, but none of us truly knew how much, yet. 

Narrator: As more and more prominent members of the community were implicated, zoos at all levels of the social hierarchy scrambled for damage control.

Stuart: I had zoos on one side coming to me saying, “Can you believe so-and-so was into this shit?” And on the other side, people asking me for information about the contents of the leaks so they could cover their tracks.

Narrator: One such zoo was the major player from Germany, Felix Wagner, the one Stuart’s friend had warned him about. In the past, Stuart had served as an ear to the ground when rumors began to circulate about Felix, so it was no surprise when he came to his trusted informer once more. 

Stuart: I had seen what happened the last time. There was a zoo who’d tried to warn everyone that something was afoot years before the leaks came out, and he became a pariah. Felix just had more social currency. I didn’t want that to happen to me, so I played along. But this time, things were different.

Interviewer: How were they different?

Stuart: It was undeniable. The fantasy was not fantasy like I’d wanted to believe, and I’d seen too much to look the other way. This was way worse than I ever knew. 

Narrator: But there was another, more personal reason Stuart was drawn into the center of the leaks.

Stuart: I was looking through these awful logs, and I just stopped. I couldn’t believe it. One of the photos they were sharing, that was Sam! That was my dog!

Narrator: The photo set featured Stuart’s own dog, his paws bound together crudely with tape, a metal apparatus forcing his muzzle open. And he recognized the location, a friend’s house where he’d left Sam while on a trip to England some years before. When Stuart confronted his friend, he confessed to the deed outright and gave a half-hearted apology.

Stuart: I don’t know if you can understand how I felt. Heartbroken, violated, but much worse than that – I had failed Sam. Failed to keep him safe. And it wasn’t something I could ever fix. I was filled with a grief that he was out there in the world, out in the photo collections of these abusers, his abuse shared freely as porn, and nothing I did could ever change that. Worse still, this abuse had actually happened years before the leaks, and I didn’t even fucking know. I didn’t know till I saw those awful logs. I’d left him with that friend on multiple occasions, not knowing I was leaving with a monster. I couldn’t even know what it would have done to Sam, how it would have changed him. But worst of all, the part that finally broke me, was that I couldn’t tell a soul.

Interviewer: Why not?

Stuart: He knew everything about me. He knew where I lived, he knew where I worked. If I turned him over to the police, it could’ve resulted in a lot of destruction. I was afraid of what would happen if it blew up. There was just too much pressure to stay silent.

Interviewer: That sounds like an awful choice to have to make.

Stuart: I was devastated. I felt useless, helpless. I failed to keep Sam safe. I let him down. I will never forgive myself for that. He paid for my mistakes.

Narrator: Pressured to gather information for his high-profile associate and driven by anger and despair over the violation of his animal companion, Stuart cooperated with investigation groups working to expose the zoosadists, playing the role of a double agent. He kept track of the investigation and reported progress to Felix, while offering up valuable knowledge to the investigation teams. At the same time, lone-wolf vigilantes roamed in and out of these camps. These self-stylized hunters usually worked alone, sometimes cooperating with investigations, other times branching off to pursue their own targets of interest.
Stuart: At first I cooperated willingly, partly through a desire to help, partly through a guilt at my inaction over the years. But I was horribly compromised. 

Interviewer: Compromised? Howso?

Stuart: Well first, I now knew multiple animal abusers or enablers or traders in abuse, who knew everything about me. These abusers were in turn being hunted, by those who wanted to bring them to justice for the animal abuse they had caused. And those hunters, those zoosadist hunters, wanted answers, wanted info, wanted these people’s heads on a platter. These hunters knew that I knew the abusers, and they knew I had failed to speak up about anything, about any problems, for decades. And these hunters also knew all of my details, my name, my address, my dox.

Narrator: Suddenly the social currency of secrets Stuart had traded in, the connections he made that gave him power and influence in the community, became his biggest weakness. As his name started popping up in testimonies, the hunters began looking in Stuart’s direction, and due to how freely he’d given his information, he was an easy zoo to find.

Stuart: For the first time in the zoo community, the spell had been broken, and there was now a cost attached to abusing animals, to trading in that abuse, to excusing that abuse, to covering up that abuse, to looking the other way. And I had looked the other way, for a decade.

Narrator: When the zoosadist hunters realized that their informant was holding back key information from them, they turned up the heat.

Stuart: They wanted every bit of information they could squeeze out of me about friend or foe, didn’t matter, and they’d do whatever it took to get it.

Narrator: The hunters were not opposed to using blackmail, extortion, and threats of violence to get what they wanted, leveraging whatever information they could gather against Stuart to force him to divulge more information. Bit by bit, they wore him down until he gave in, even confessing that his own dog had been victimized by a member of the zoosadist ring. 

Stuart: They targeted friends, family, even my place of work. Ignoring them only made them escalate further and further, risking the safety of me, my dog and my family. When I finally cooperated with them, they made sure things got even worse.

Narrator: As Stuart left work one evening, he found his former friend waiting for him on his route home. The sadist who had bound his dog didn’t have much to say, but Stuart left the encounter with a black eye and three broken ribs. It turned out that the blackmailers had outed him as a double agent, telling the zoosadists Stuart had testified against them, ensuring that he would be their next victim. In spite of complying, his friends and family were still targeted by the hunters, culminating in the release of his full name, address, and place of work on a doxxing website.

Stuart: It really is true that giving in to a blackmailer never achieves any respite.

Narrator: Everything that Stuart had built up over decades in the zoo community crumbled around him. Mutual Assured Destruction. The system had worked. Despite not taking part in any animal abuse himself, he, too, found his world in ashes, collateral damage of the nuclear fallout surrounding the people who’d committed heinous crimes against animals in his community.

Stuart: I lost everything except for my dog. My friends and zoo associates either thought I died or disappeared. I had to cut contacts with everyone I’d ever known, moved to a new city. For a time I found myself completely alone, under threat, not knowing if it would ever stop. And I can’t truly know if it ever has, to this day.

(pause, music)

Stuart: All I was able to do, in the end, was rebuild from scratch. Make a new name and start from zero. And I knew better than most, that earning a good reputation in the zoo community takes a long time, with good reason. Making genuine friendships, making connections, takes a long time, too. And the rules were very different now. I think I’ve made a good effort out of it, and I try to live my life very differently now. But it’ll be many years before I stop being afraid. And many years before I’ve atoned for my part in how the zoo community used to be. I hope my lessons get remembered and get carried forward, for all the people that didn’t experience this themselves. Because while learning the hard way is often the most thorough way, too many animals have paid for our mistakes and will continue doing so. The old ways of dealing with these problems were rotten. The old days were about looking the other way. This has to stop.

Narrator: It’s been over three and a half years since Levi Simmons’ logs were laid bare for all the internet to see, and the landscape is palpably different from before.

Stuart: If the old community was the MAD phase, the community today is the aftermath of those decisions. A whole lot of shit got blown up and a whole lot of people experienced far reaching incineration of some or all of their networks. I recall a zoo describing that time very succinctly on her twitter a few months back. A lot of people had to suddenly learn a lot of things about their friends the hard way.

Interviewer: What do you think is different about the community back then and the community now?

Stuart: In a word – accountability. There was never the room for it before, never the space. How could we be accountable when we all lived under the carpet of shared lies we had all been brushed under? How could we be accountable when to speak up was to strike out? How could we be accountable when we had no shared values, no social fabric, no institutions? All of that has changed now. Whether or not you tell the story of the man who lit the flame, the community as it stands today is building pillar after pillar of what is required to raise all of us up. And we can all be a part of that building if we choose.

Narrator: Somehow, the entire ordeal lit a fire under the community. It’s as if we felt a need to redefine who we were, to prove to ourselves as much as to the world that we are a people who truly love animals. We have a chance to lay a new foundation for the kinds of relationships we want to have, both with animals, and with each other.

Stuart: I don’t consider myself blameless, but certainly a product of my environment. I think about it all the time, how people, how kids the age I was, could lead such different lives in the community with the right pressures. The old community values and pressures to do right or wrong, to speak up or stay quiet, to say something or look the other way, were absolutely terrible. You fall in with the wrong bunch and lack the social structures to do better or be held accountable, it goes bad real fast, in many circles of life.

Narrator: The tenuous peace promised by Mutual Assured Destruction falls apart when someone realizes that no matter what they do, no one is going to pull the trigger. This is the reality even on the global stage, where power-hungry world leaders push boundaries, inciting violence and war, usurping neighboring countries, because they know that the biggest gun pointed at their head, the only source of accountability, is nothing but a bluff. So is there a better way?


When your only other option is loneliness, it’s easy to understand how tempting MAD-first arrangements can be. To be a zoophile is to know isolation and othering. Before the internet, your chance to meet someone was slim, and you might be their first encounter, too. The well-connected, high profile zoos were your gateway to everything. And you connected to them… by word of mouth. By phone. By mail, actually writing something down and physically sending it somewhere. And travel. Finding the time and the money and the courage to visit a stranger in their home. But those days are over. The internet flattened access to information and people. It created hubs and neutral ground to make it easier to find each other. Just as it was designed to do!

And thats not all. It’s a medium with global scope, letting you reach way outside your local community to find someone else, somewhere else, and with some degree of anonymity. Enough to feel safe talking about something taboo. 

Queer people, including zoophiles, were among the very first to realize the power of the net and use it to socialize and organize. That was more than 30 years ago. Today facebook has nearly 3 billion monthly active users. Our entire world is more connected than it’s ever been before.

A smaller community might have made a culture of secrets more tenable in the past, but that culture doesn’t scale easily. Consider our global example. At first, only two major superpowers had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, and the uneasy peace they brokered only relied on two actors behaving. Today, that peace requires the cooperation of nine different countries, one of which is North Korea. 

When you’re dealing with a community of thousands, secrets are much harder to keep, making the likelihood of avoiding mutual assured destruction that many times more difficult to manage.

So if MAD is an untenable method of building community, what can we replace it with? Solidarity.

Solidarity is a sense of unity in a group when its members are aware of their shared interests, standards, sympathies… Purpose. Solidarity is built on a foundation of trust, which takes a combination of time and vulnerability. And there’s a difference between sharing dirt and being vulnerable. Vulnerability is not sharing your name and address with a stranger so that they can destroy you. It’s what allows you to feel comfortable letting your hair down when you’re around your favorite group of people. It’s why you’re willing to stay up until 3 am when your best friend calls you crying with an existential crisis. It’s an essential ingredient in gaining a deeper understanding of a fellow human being. Solidarity, the investment of time and vulnerability, is fundamentally about building relationships.

Mutual Assured Destruction, on the other hand, is a method of gaining access to something you want quickly, eschewing trust in favor of fear, vulnerability in favor of dirt. It’s quick and easy, while solidarity can be slow and difficult to foster. But when you take the time to build relationships through solidarity, you come away with something deeper, stronger, and more resilient. When shit hits the fan under a MAD scenario, it’s every man for himself. Everyone is scrambling to take as little personal damage as possible, at the cost of everyone else. When a community has a backbone of solidarity, its members work together during times of hardship. Solidarity gives people a reason to care about their group’s health and moral composition, beyond what mere membership offers. Only solidarity offers protection to the group from rogue actors, from inside and out. And the good news is, we’re already building these foundations in our community today.

While MAD is no longer remotely necessary, conditions still exist that could turn cohesion and solidarity into a scenario of mutually assured destruction. So how can we minimize the chances that we find ourselves in a situation like Stuart Adams found himself in in 2018?

We start by decoupling trust from dirt. You don’t need to know sensitive information about someone to trust them. Activists and countercultures like furries have known this for years. Among furries in particular, it’s incredibly commonplace to know your closest and dearest friends only by their fursona and nothing else. Trust is fostered through time and vulnerability.

Next, we need to agree that dirt is not a social currency. Who you know and who you’ve fucked, how many people whose secrets you hold, and what information you’re willing to give to others cannot be a prerequisite for access to social spaces in the community. 

Third, we must resist blackmail and extortion. This is the primary exploit of a bad actor. Never, ever give in to a blackmailer’s demands, and neutralize threats by disclosing the harmful information they hold yourself. It’s a radical idea, but it’s proven to work.

Fourth, we need to hide less, and talk more. When there are problems in the community, we should deal with them quickly rather than letting them fester, and we should deal with them together rather than sweeping them under the rug. This is what the Double Shield Initiative was created to do: deal with and remove bad actors from community spaces through group consensus so that they can’t cause any damage to the community.

Finally, we have to collectively defang threats by fighting stigma and countering the bullshit we face as a marginalized group, and we need to be seen doing this by the people who matter. Speak out where you can as a counterpoint to the prevailing narratives society has about us as a people and about animals as a whole. If we successfully remove the stigma, the conditions that make mutual assured destruction viable to exploit are largely dismantled. 

The zoo community is changing. In the past three years, we’ve become healthier, more visible, and more active. We are creating, we are building, we are defining ourselves with shared values and institutions. The foundation of solidarity is already being laid, and if we decide collectively that we want something more than the systems of mutually assured destruction that defined the old guard, we have all the tools we need to achieve it.

Interviewer: What is your hope for the future?
Stuart: My hope is that we never see a repeat of the disastrous and toxic community pressures I found myself immersed in from the old zoo community, as surely many others did and may still be doing so. Animals paid the price for the values of the old zoo community and we must never again fail to put their needs first. Every kid like me we instill our new shared values into, every kid like me we mentor and educate, every kid like me we raise up and inspire to do better, leads to happy healthy animals that we will never let down.

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Cold Open

Narrator: There’s a thought that’s probably been in the back of your mind for a long time. Maybe it creeps into your consciousness when you’re lying awake in bed, or plays out in your brain while you’re out walking your dog. Maybe it’s something you obsess over, or maybe it’s something you try your best not to think about. Right now, though, just for a moment, I want you to honestly ask yourself this question — What would you do if the police came to your house, tonight, with a search warrant to search your home?

Maybe you’ve already got a plan. Maybe you’re going through a checklist right now of vital steps you’ve seen shared online. Unplug the computer. Turn off your phone. Don’t answer any questions. Ask for your lawyer to be present.

All good advice. But are you sure you can follow it? What if the police ask persistent questions? It’s rude not to answer. Maybe they tell you that things will be a lot easier if you just cooperate, and after all, you just want the ordeal to be over. Or maybe, even if you have the will to stick to your guns, your roommate isn’t made of iron like you are. Maybe you live at home with your parents, and now they want to know what’s going on. What if your careful strategy falls through when you’re actually faced with the situation you’ve been dreading?

As zoos, we have to live with this looming question repeating itself over and over in the back of our minds, because in many countries, one of the most quintessential expressions of our sexuality… is illegal. We are up against powerful lobbyists and fringe organizations that exploit the ignorance of legislatures, completely unopposed because… well, who would stand against them?

Tonight’s story is about a zoo who decided to do just that — to take a stand against a local animal rights organization lobbying to strengthen legislation against zoophiles at the national level. But there’s always risk when you put yourself on the line to take on a powerful enemy; when you fight the law, you could bring the law right to your front door. Some names have been changed, but the details, dates, and events are 100% accurate.

Stay tuned for Season Four, Episode Eleven of Zooier Than Thou: I Fought the Law.

Part 1

Narrator: Zoophiles exist everywhere humans do, from every conceivable cultural background and in every environment we find a way to call home. As an American podcast, Zooier Than Thou usually focuses on the American zoophile perspective, exploring the nature of US law and discussing community life in this huge, incredibly diverse place. Today’s story, however, takes us across the Atlantic to France, where a sparse but close-knit zoophile community had been growing since the late 2000’s. Aspiryne (Aspirin), as he was known on the French ZooLibre forums, liked hosting parties to bring them together.

Aspiryne: Ours was a small community scattered all around the country. There were the zoos from the east, the zoos from the south, the zoos from the middle, etc. And sometimes a BBQ party was organized where everyone was invited, and this is where everyone would learn about news of what was happening in every part of the country.

Narrator: Members gathered from all corners of the nation, but there were still many who weren’t aware there was a community at all, like Robin Faucher, a younger zoo living in the countryside.

Robin: To be honest, I did not think there was a community to begin with. I always thought that, while there were most likely people interested in or at least curious about it, they would most likely keep quiet about it, out of fear [of] being judged or rejected by family and friends.

Interviewer: Have you ever met any other zoos in real life?

Robin: Can’t say I have. Living in the countryside has its perks, like it’s usually a calmer environment, but meeting new people can be tricky. As far as I know, none of the people I’ve met are zoos. Living in what we sometimes refer to as “diagonale du vide,” which translates as “the empty diagonal,” the least populated part of the country, sure doesn’t help either.

Narrator: Robin’s experience was common. It still is—Zoos often feel isolated and hesitant to reach out to others, whether because of distance, or fear, or due to being burned in the past.

Robin: Even just the few times I did try broaching the subject in a vague, fictional way with friends, most gave me a weirded out, if not grossed out look. A few were at least willing to listen, but they stood on grounds like, “There’s no such thing as consent with animals.”

Narrator: Technology to the rescue. To overcome this isolation, a small group of zoos formed AnimalZooFrance in 2007, and began working on a forum for zoos who shared their values of animal kinship and welfare, as well as a wiki dedicated to disseminating better quality information about zoophilia.

Interviewer: How would you describe AnimalZooFrance as an organization?

Aspiryne: Well, I didn’t know about them for a long time. I joined the community about 4 years ago, so they were here a long time before me. As an organization, I would say they were the origin of the community, and without the forum they made, I don’t think we could have had a community at all. Maybe just a few circles of people knowing each other from some shady fetishist website. With AnimalZooFrance, we had a place to talk with each other, where new members were welcomed (even if sometimes it was a hard path for them to join the community and meet people), and where you could learn more about zoophilia in general.

(A transition in music)

André: (In English) My name is André Toussaint, and I’m a proud member of AnimalZooFrance.

Narrator: Among AnimalZooFrance’s members, André Toussaint stood out as one of the most active and outspoken. André has been a member of AnimalZooFrance for over a decade, and dedicated a lot of his time and energy to helping develop the organization’s French language wiki, and frequently posted on the forums.

Aspiryne: I would say André has a very strong personality. He believes in what he’s doing a lot, and it’s hard to make him change his mind. Once he’ll start something, I don’t think anything can stop him from doing it. He can appear kinda cold when you meet him for the first time, but once you get to know him better, he’s more friendly.

Narrator: Among the various topics detailed on the organization’s wiki, André is particularly focused on documenting French law concerning bestiality and zoophilia. In 2004, Animal sex abuse was outlawed, carrying a penalty of 2 years in prison and a 30,000 euro fine. But what exactly constituted abuse was not always clear, even to French authorities.

Aspiryne: The law before was a bit unclear, but basically practicing only was illegal. Everything else was okay as far as I know.

Interviewer: What aspect of the law made it unclear?

Aspiryne: The text basically read, “If you do some bad or sexual abuse to an animal, [these are the penalties].” Which is not very clear, because as it reads you could think, “OK, so if I don’t sexually abuse an animal and have consensual sex, it’s fine,” while it was not.

Narrator: The courts eventually established that sexual abuse specifically involved the penetration of an animal, and very few cases resulted in convictions. Between 2013 and 2016, a woman referred to in French newspapers only as “Aline” used classified ads on sex websites in order to lure zoophiles, and report them to the police. Aline managed to report fewer than 10 people to the Justice, and in the majority of those, the courts weren’t able to prove that there was abuse. Frustrated, Aline collected all the cases and everything she had seen while lurking on zoophile forums and in the classifieds of seedy sex websites, and presented them to every animal protection association in France. In 2019, her story caught the attention of Animal Cross.


Narrator: Animal Cross is a relatively obscure, fringe animal rights association in France. Behind Animal Cross is founder Benoît Thomé, who is also founder and CEO of Median Conseil, a medical statistics company. Thomé’s clientele include giants like 3M and Bayer, and his resumé includes work with Proctor and Gamble. In addition, he once served on the supervisory board of Biose, a biotherapeutic drug company. Needless to say, Thomé is a man with deep pockets and friends in high places.

André: Animal Cross is a little association, but the president knows a lot of important people.

Narrator: Animal Cross champions various animal welfare causes, including hunting reform, advocacy for animals considered to be pests, and abolishing force feeding in foie gras production. But among the six major campaigns listed on its website, is anti-zoophilia activism. 

Quote: In France, zoophilia is an unknown sexual deviance which nevertheless kills many victims every year… 10,000 PEOPLE GO TO CLASSIFIED AD WEBSITES FOR SEXUAL EXPERIENCES WITH ANIMALS. UNBEARABLE IMAGES ARE ACCESSIBLE IN JUST A FEW CLICKS BY CHILDREN.

Benoît Thomé: The theme of zoophilia is largely overlooked. Without trying to protect morality, an unquestionable observation is essential: animals are the silent victims of these sexual assaults since they are unable to say “no.” The Internet has facilitated the development of zoophilia. Drastic measures must be taken to stop it. — Benoît Thomé

Narrator: By 2020, Animal Cross had the ear of French legislature. On June 23rd that year, National France Assembly Member Loïc Dombreval published a report with his recommendations regarding zoophilia, using language drafted by Animal Cross, verbatim.

Dombreval: Despite the penalty made in 2004, it must be noted that there is a striking contrast between [the amount of zoophilic internet traffic in France] and the rate of criminal prosecution. Indeed, in the [11] cases where the zoophile was convicted by the courts… only one case resulted in prison time… It is therefore advisable to: Purge zoophilic content from the web by blocking the spread of zoophilia; Clarify the concept of animal sexual abuse; Increase criminal penalties; and Dismantle networks of zoophiles. — Dombreval’s Report, Recommendation 36.

Narrator: Also in the same year, Animal Cross held a conference titled “Animals — The New Sex Toys,” featuring Aline the Zoophile Hunter as a guest speaker, as well as Marjorlaine Baron, a veterinarian who published a thesis condemning bestiality. Among their talking points, Animal Cross decried Peter Singer — the father of the modern animal rights movement — for speaking positively of zoophilia. They also cited the ZETA principles as a smokescreen for zoophiles to justify sexual interactions with animals, and alluded to the risque Orangina commercials featuring anthropomorphic animals, as veiled references to zoosexuality. Their accompanying report featured quotes and literature lifted from sources such as ZETA Verein and sociologist Dr. Andrea Beetz, openly citing passages that paint zoophilia in a favorable light. However, Animal Cross’s report ultimately fell back on descriptions of zoosadism and animal injury, and comparisons to child sexual abuse, to drive their position home, characterizing sex with animals as necessarily exploitative and physically harmful for all parties involved. Several members of AnimalZooFrance discretely attended the conference, including André.

Interviewer: What was it like being there at that conference, hearing them say all those things?

André: It was something I had never felt. It’s quite difficult to describe. I would say it’s like participating in a witch trial. Physically. Speakers at the conference were seated facing the audience, on chairs below the projection screen. I had the impression that some of the speakers, especially the whistleblower, were scrutinizing the public. I was really scared. Like when you walk into a sex shop for the first time, you think everyone is watching you. It was a dogmatic atmosphere, with the guru speaking in front of everyone and making these horrible faces.

Interviewer: Was there ever a point where you wanted to stand up and shout, “This is not what we’re about?”

André: No, for 2 reasons: first I was terrified, and I couldn’t get comfortable. Second, there weren’t many things that made me react; we know all the lies that are told about us. What shocked me was seeing all the clichés put together. They were religious fanatics trying to prove that zoophiles were child eaters.

Interviewer: Hypothetically speaking, what would have been the tipping point where you would have felt confident in speaking out right then and there at the conference?

André: I never would have spoken, no matter what, not at the time. Going to this conference required a lot of psychological preparation.

Today it would have been different, because I have taken a step forward, I am no longer at the same level. With what I’ve been through over the course of almost 2 years, I’m not the same person anymore. I would have spoken from the beginning, from the introduction. And even more during the visit of the veterinarian, Marjolaine Baron. Having read her thesis, I knew what she was going to say. And her stats are bogus.

Narrator: André and the others decided not to speak out during the conference, but they did make an effort to talk with some of the speakers. 

André: When the lecture was over, I said to myself, “I can’t leave like this.” So I went for a walk to the bathroom, splashing water on my face, like an actor going on stage. I was like, “Come on, go ahead, go for it, you have no fear.” I then approached a group of people who were talking with the whistleblower. I started talking with Aline, and I asked a lot of questions. She had doubts about me. She was like, “Oh, but who are you?” because everyone knows each other. I replied, “I am a member of L214,” and that kicked things off, because this association, very well known in France, is antispeciesist. Aline immediately asked me, “What do you think of Peter Singer? The father of veganism? Who’s a zoophile!”

Narrator: André himself later reached out to Marjolaine Baron via Facebook, attempting to gain an audience.

André: (quoted) [In a recent interview,] you were asked, “Have you met any zoophiles?” You answered, “I also wanted to get in touch with zoophiles, but I would have been forced to go through zoophilic platforms and at the time, I didn’t know if it was legal! I didn’t want to take the risk of discrediting my work.” Today I offer you the opportunity to correct this, if you feel like it. And based on what you told me last February, it still interests you. Not responding will not make your cause more credible.

Marjolaine: My lack of response is not intended to make “my cause more credible.” I worked on the subject for 3 years to write my thesis, and I already have a solid opinion. I simply have no interest in what you say and I ask you to respect it.

André: You worked on the subject for 3 years, without contacting the people your thesis was about. I believe you are afraid of what you might discover, that your thesis would fall through. I believe that is what prevents you from meeting us. I am offering you today a source of information which comes from your thesis subject, on which you and Benoît Thomé worked… and you answer me that you have no interest in that? We are under attack from your side,. You desire to imprison us, and for this you use fallacious arguments, based on biased studies in order to relieve you of responsibility. This conference was very difficult to bear, seeing us displayed on this screen. Listening to you denounce, with reason, cases of sadism by associating them with us, was very painful. We simply did not understand why such an outpouring of hatred. Almost all of us are involved in animal protection, at the local level. We are recognized and respected by these associations.

Marjolaine: Listen, you can’t force anyone to listen to you or change their mind. You could have talked with us when you had the opportunity, during the conference for example. And if you listened carefully to the conference, you know that we clearly distinguish those who mutilate animals from others, but that does not mean that I agree with your point of view. And if you have read my thesis, I also know that many of you are involved in animal protection; one obviously does not prevent the other for you, but to me it seems contradictory.

Your opinion does not interest me, on the one hand because my convictions are indeed strong and I will not back down from it, but equally because I no longer work with Benoît Thomé… since the conference. I have a life beside the fight against bestiality. If you keep talking to me, I’ll block you. Thank you.

Narrator: By June of 2020, Animal Cross had successfully petitioned Google to delist various zoo websites from its search results, including parts of the French website ZooLibre. In response to the mounting pressure exerted by the small but influential animal rights group, André began posting online in opposition to Animal Cross’s activities. He was a singular voice—loud, outspoken, and visible—using the banner of AnimalZooFrance when tagging various animal rights associations on Twitter.

André: Over time, I discovered I was good at writing, putting ideas together, and making arguments. When we got together for parties, we talked about a lot of zooey subjects. I asked everyone questions, so I had a good idea of what the whole group was thinking. Then I took these overarching ideas and turned them into an argument. I tried to publish those ideas on the wiki and through social media websites like Twitter, because while the law was being discussed, a bunch of French Animal Rights associations were posting stuff on Twitter. I was watching for their tweets and responding as soon as I could with zooey arguments and linking them to the wiki.

Aspiryne: I don’t think he got help from any of the others, and not even support from some, kinda the reverse actually. I think some people were scared of what could happen to them and their partners.

Narrator: However, it turned out André wasn’t alone in his fight against Animal Cross. In September of 2020, an unknown and unidentified zoo activist sent out 50 physical letters to customers of Benoît Thomé’s company, and to neighboring businesses in the offices where Animal Cross was registered.

All 50 of the letters read, Quote: “Warning! Your neighbor Mr. Thomé is a pedophile! He sent a photo of his genitals to my 15-year-old daughter!” End quote.

Narrator: A few days later, the same letter with an accompanying image was posted to an anonymous Twitter account. As a result, Benoît Thomé received two death threats from people who believed the defamatory letters. On September 30, 2020, Thomé filed a complaint with the Justice, citing AnimalZooFrance, the little Zoophile Rights group that had become a small thorn in his side, as a likely culprit.

André: When I saw the death threats for the first time, I didn’t understand. My first reaction was to laugh. It seemed to be a joke, you know, it was so huge, I didn’t get it. I couldn’t imagine a guy working against a ban on zoophilia without any support. I couldn’t, and I still can’t imagine to this day, why this guy never talked to me. My first thought, and I think I’m not that far from truth, was that Animal Cross or someone working with them made the death threats. Because Justice would never be interested to us, unless we were involved in pedophilia, terrorism, or repeated death threats.

Narrator: Then on December 14, 2020, the drafted bill targeting zoophiles was given to the National Assembly. André took the time to register as a member of Animal Cross, providing his full name and email to the organization, in order to monitor their activities. On January 5th, André began personally writing letters to deputies, while Animal Cross sent out a newsletter urging its members to contact lawmakers to vote in favor of the proposed law.

Interviewer: Do you know if there were any other zoos who wrote to lawmakers at that time?

Aspiryne: As far as i know, no, he was the only one.

Narrator: André sent out a new letter every 10 days throughout the National Assembly’s deliberation. The odds were steep—he was a single zoo fighting against a well-connected animal rights group—but the results of the deliberations seemed promising. A deputy working with Animal Cross tried to modify the definition of Sexual Abuse to include “any act of a sexual nature, even without penetration.” But the change in language was not well-received by Julien Denormandie, the French Minister of Agriculture.

Julien: What if I stroke a horse’s mane? Could this be construed in the future to be a sexual act?

Narrator: Nor was the change well-received by National Assembly member Françios-Michel Lambert.

Françios-Michel: Given the difficulty of defining what a sexual relationship is in the animal world, it is possible that what we consider to be a positive gesture may be perceived by the animal as a sexual assault: therefore, what will be the position of the judge? I may be stepping outside the scope of our discussions, but the closer we consider animals to humans, the more complex the case law will be to establish. An association could thus consider itself justified, in view of the particular knowledge it has of an animal and its behavior, in considering that the simple fact of touching [an animal] is a sexual act constituting abuse.

Narrator: Despite Animal Cross’s vision for a much broader definition of animal sexual abuse, the organization only succeeded in increasing the penalty of already illegal penetrative sexual activity from 2 years in prison to 4, and increasing fines from 30,000 Euros to 60,000. The National Assembly also ruled in favor of outlawing the dissemination of zoophilic pornography with a penalty of 2 years imprisonment and a 30,000 Euro fine, and exempted veterinarians from professional secrecy, that is, client-patient confidentiality requirements in the case of animal sexual abuse.

Aspiryne: I would say it was better than i thought it would have been. But I wasn’t very surprised. The campaign lead by Animal Cross against zoophilia was clearly made to influence the deputies and give them a far more negative view about it than it was in reality.

André: It was truly a huge victory. We in our group of friends have different opinions about zoo porn. I am one for whom it is not vital. I prefer watching animals with each other. This point did not interest me compared to the prohibition of any form of zoophilia. I loved the response from the Minister of Agriculture.

Narrator: Meanwhile, Animal Cross decried the results, suggesting that deputies were rolling back the laws against zoophilia. And the battle wasn’t over yet. The bill still needed to be deliberated on in the senate before being signed into law. André and the other members of AnimalZooFrance were hopeful.

André: At this point, we were happy, because the second chamber, senators, are known to be socially conservative and “against” radical animal rights organizations.

Narrator: However, unbeknownst to André, the conflict with Animal Cross was about to heat up. In February of 2021, the mysterious John Doe activist who sent out the defamatory letters published Benoît Thomé’s phone number and the address of his company in a tweet, claiming that Thomé and Animal Cross were Islamophobic. Then in March, John Doe upped the ante, sending high-quality forgeries of Animal Cross communications to various Muslim associations across France. These PDFs, which used Animal Cross colors and logos, denounced ritual slaughter of animals attributed to Muslims, and asserted that Islam was a religion that accepts pedophilia, including outrageous accusations against the religion’s prophet. To bolster the authenticity of the PDFs, these forgeries contained a page from a book published by Animal Cross on hunting, and referenced the logo of an obscure French association which militates against the slaughter of animals.

André: When I learned that Benoit Thomé’s neighbors had received letters accusing him of being a pedophile, I said to myself, “He’s going to use this to come after me.” When I saw the PDF in the association’s colors, I didn’t understand. I had never seen this document, and its quality made my head spin. I didn’t understand where it could have come from because I don’t know anyone who has those layout skills.

Narrator: Shortly after the forged PDFs were sent out, Animal Cross received an email containing physical threats to Thomé’s wife, with an attached photo gallery depicting photoshopped images of his wife being decapitated. The email also referenced Thomé’s home address, which was not public knowledge.

André: Benoît Thomé is an adversary, not an enemy. I can have conversations with him — in fact I have, and I would love to do it again. I looked up a lot of things about him, his life, and his Animal Cross association. Naturally, I came across the address of his company and Animal Cross. The addresses are public and available on the company websites. So I thought that was their home address, because when you go to Google Maps, it’s a residential area with apartments. It was only later that I discovered that this address was not his real address. Nobody knows how this person discovered the real address of Benoît Thomé. He himself couldn’t explain it.

Narrator: On March 17th, Thomé alerted the Justice of the escalating situation, and expressed his doubts to police about a member of Animal Cross who refused to give his physical address when signing up to attend an online meeting. Though he couldn’t be sure at the time, he had singled out André as a potential spy and a suspect in the escalating defamation and death threats being launched at his family. Armed with a legal name, police began their investigation into André’s involvement. But things continued to escalate for Thomé. On May 10th, 2021, Benoît Thomé received three photos depicting child pornography to his home, courtesy of the Photobox online printing service. When the police investigated, they found that the IP address of the perpetrator was hidden behind a VPN, and the credit card used was an anonymized PCS Mastercard. 

André: This person and their actions remain an enigma to me. I have been in this community for more than 15 years now, working alongside its members. We have met dozens of people over the years, maybe hundreds. And I’ve never met anyone who was this technically skilled. Nobody is crazy enough to take the risk of sending pedophile photos over the Internet, let alone to have them printed. The risk is so great that the person who did it must have felt pretty sure they could get away with it. Even if I knew how to do it technically, I would never have taken the risk of pedophilia. That’s something that I do not support.

I admire the professionalism of this person, but I don’t understand why they’ve never come forward in 15 years. They did us wrong, and I can’t help but think that we could’ve done so many beautiful things if this person had joined us.

Narrator: Little did André know, his troubles were only just beginning. AnimalZooFrance was still breathing a sigh of relief over the results in the National Assembly, and were preparing themselves for the now upcoming battle against Animal Cross in the Senate. The battle was about to come right to his front door.


Interviewer: Have you ever considered coming out to your family?

Aspiryne: No, at least not all my family. My mom knows, and she’s the only one. For the rest, I don’t plan to come out to my dad and my sister and brother. I don’t trust my dad enough to know what his reaction will be, and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t understand and wouldn’t even try to understand.

As for my siblings, I tried talking about it with my brother when I was younger. He was disgusted, so I moved to something else and never talked about it again.

My sister is close to animals just like me, so maybe she will understand, but she’s too young for that right now.

For the rest of my family, grandparents, uncles and aunt, well, I won’t tell them. Maybe they will find out on their own when they would see I wouldn’t go anywhere without my future partner. I guess I’ll know they’ve understood when I’m not invited to family gatherings or when they stop asking me when I’m gonna get a girlfriend.

Interviewer: Have you ever considered coming out to your family?

Robin: I did a few times, but they can be quite judgmental on a few things, and zoophilia happens to be one of these things, sadly. I can’t say for sure how they would react to it, but i think they would certainly not like it. The worse take I heard was my own brother, who bluntly claimed, “If you enjoy furry, then you’re a disgusting zoo.”

André: I’m 42, and I’ve lived in a little farm I bought myself for four years now. Three years ago, I asked my father if he wanted to come and live here. He’s 73 years old. I didn’t want him to live alone far from me. He has some health issues with his heart. Nothing very serious, but who knows? Before he came here, I had to tell him about my zoo life. I tried to talk with him for a whole year, and I never found the right timing. But 3 months before he moved here, I had to tell him. So I explained to him my life with my animals. He knew I lived alone, and he thought I was gay, so this is how I started the discussion: “Dad, I have to tell you something before you move into my house. You have to know how I live, and after that, you can make your decision to come or not. There are two things I have to tell you. You’ve never seen me with a girl, right? This is because I prefer men to women, I’m gay. This is the first part. Are you ok with that?”

He answered, “Are you happy that way? Yes? Then, it’s ok for me.”

“Ok, this was the small thing. The big thing is, as you know, I love animals. I really love them… ‘really,’ do you catch my drift?”

“Yes, I get it. You know, I’m 73,” he said. “I’ve seen many things in my life, probably more than what you’re describing. When I was young, with my brother, we used to watch our neighbor through the key hole, she was getting fucked by her great dane…” So we talked a little about that. I didn’t give many details, but I told him practicing zoophilia is quite illegal, that all my friends are like me, and that probably one day police would come to my house, that they already came 10 years ago, and they will probably come again in the near future.

Narrator: Another of André’s friends, Pierre Lachapelle, had made the decision long ago to come out to his family.

André: Pierre had already told his parents 10 or 15 years before that he was a zoo. He was very, very seriously injured in a car accident. Doctors had said he would never walk again, but he had a very strong spirit, and everything ended up alright for him. After recovering and being ‘reborn again,’ so to speak, he decided to be himself, and tell people who he really was, and stop living a lie.

Narrator: Not everyone can come out to their families. Whether it’s an uneasy relationship with their parents, closeminded relatives, or simply having too much to lose, many zoos are forced to live in the closet.

André: My other friend Emile is also in his 40’s, and he never told his parents about his association with us. His family owns a lot of land, and they own horses on some 50 acres. That land is passed down from generation to generation. Because he didn’t want to be a shame on his family and lose everything, he never told his parents, only his brother. 

Narrator: In the summer of 2021, André’s disclosure to his father paid off. On June 29th at 7 am, police came to André’s farm and entered his father’s small house built on the property.

André: My dad is a little paranoid. So, before going to sleep, he always puts a big bell around his door handle, so if someone opens the door from outside at night, the bell will fall and make a loud noise. So when police arrived, they first came to his house, opened the door, and made the bell fall on the ground. My dad woke up, and when he saw police, he was not shocked, because I regularly made jokes about it, that living as a zoophile is illegal, and that maybe one day or another, police would come to our home.

Narrator: André’s father gave André enough time to wake up and prepare for the police to enter his house. He made it clear that he had cameras on the premises and interacted cordially with the officers as they searched his home. 

André: Dad was joking with the policemen. One of them was interested in tech and retro gaming, and he was astonished when he saw my Super Famicom, so we talked about it and other stuff like that. Dad was talking with another about fishing, hunting, growing potatoes in the garden… Everything was OK for both of us. When they took me to the car, I said to him, “They have nothing against me. I’ll be out this evening.” He asked a policeman to enter the police station address in his GPS in order to pick me up when they released me.

Narrator: Pierre, who also lived on the premises, was not so lucky. Police picked him up at work and took him home, where they searched his belongings.

André: The policemen were not cool with him, and they made an incredible mess of his house. I’m sure they were gentle with me because they thought they were being recorded.

Narrator: André and Pierre were taken into custody for questioning over the death threats and the defamation campaign the mysterious John Doe zoo activist was waging against Animal Cross. As they sat in their holding cell, André heard a familiar voice.

André: I’ve known Emile for 15 years. I felt I could put my life in his hands. When he arrived at the police station, Pierre and I were already in a cell. I made a little joke, because I was not afraid of the situation, that we were 3 zoos in jail, in near cells, and that we could chat the day away.

I shouted, “Hey hey hey! I know this voice!”

No answer. He was still with the policeman, so maybe he didn’t want to say he knew me.

Then the policeman moved him into the cell next to mine.

I asked, “Hey dude, how are you?”

He said just one thing, one fucking thing. “My mom cried.”

I can hear myself again, answering, “Oh… I’m sorry about that,” and that was all.

I knew what it meant. When he told me, “My mom cried,” I knew he would never speak to me again.

Narrator: André, Pierre, and Emile were released later that night, 30 minutes apart. André was the last to be released.

André: Pierre went straight to his parents house. He explained to them police could come, and like my dad, since they already knew everything, they were not shocked. When my dad came to take me home in the evening, he didn’t ask anything because he knew everything. The police didn’t come because I was a zoo, because at the time, zoo was in a gray zone in France, both legal and illegal. I explained to my dad that some guy made a complaint for harassment and death threats, we talked about it, and every thing was all right.

André: I gave Emile some time before reaching out again. About a month later, I asked him, “What kind of questions did they ask you? And what did you answer?”

He said, “Mostly the questions were about you and the AnimalZooFrance wiki… I answered everything…”

“What? What you do?”

“I answered everything,” he said again.

“Did you sign the paper with everything you said?”

“Yes.” He really fucked up. I wrote a topic in our zoo board, many years ago, explaining how to react if you’re arrested by the police: don’t answer any questions! It was written everywhere! Just say your name, your parents’ names (to check if it’s you), and that you want to see a lawyer and a doctor. Then shut your mouth! In reality, I’m sure he was afraid of the cops. I believed he was strong enough, but he was not. He explained to me how his mom reacted to the policemen. She started crying, she was like insane. She tried to block the way when they started to take him away to the police station. I’m pretty sure he was really afraid of the policemen, like 95% of people, and he was too afraid to lie. He answered every question, and he signed when they asked him to do it. As justification, he told me they weren’t interested in zoophilia, just in the death threats. And yes, now, 2 years later, I know he was right. But even if the police report was about death threats, I have a feeling that’s not really what Benoît Thomé was interested in when he filed those complaints.

(a pause)

André: I learned two things from this experience. One, it’s VERY, VERY, VERY important to come out to our close family, and to people who might be involved when the police come, because when you’re putting yourself on the line as a zoo and participating in zoo activism, one day or another, the police WILL come. And two, you can’t rely on people, even close friends, to react properly when problems arise. You just can’t know how people will react when they’re awakened by police at 7am. You can only know after their first encounter.

Interviewer: How did you find out about the arrests?

Aspiryne: I found out when André told it to us. He didn’t hide it.

As for how the community reacted? Badly. Since it was prominent members of the ZooLibre forum who got in trouble, everyone was thinking, “Now the authorities are watching the whole forum, so everyone is in danger.” Some people disappeared for a while, clearing everything they thought could lead to them. Some blamed André, telling him it was his fault. And some just did nothing and waited to see what would happen.

Interviewer: Were people aware that he was arrested specifically with regard to death threats? 

Aspiryne: Yes. From the beginning André told us it was a death threat letter that they were arrested for and not something related to zoophilia. 

Interviewer: I’m curious why people were so afraid they’d be linked to him.

Aspiryne: Probably a bit of a paranoid reaction, but kinda understandable.

Interviewer: Have things settled down since then?

Aspiryne: Not completely. The long term consequence is a shattered community. The people of the east barely talk to the rest of us now. I have a friend there I was close to who disappeared for some years now, not even a small message from time to time to tell me if he’s fine or not. They erased us from their lives. Now it’s harder to meet new people. I still host some meeting parties, and it’s a bit better now, but soon after these events, lots of people didn’t want to come because André was here. They where afraid he was watched and the authorities could link them to him.

We don’t have a forum anymore, just the wiki. But it’s not a large place where everyone can join and talk with the rest of the people. I wanted to make a telegram group just like Zoo Furs Unity, but with my work I haven’t found the time for that. Maybe I’ll find some time later, I hope.


Narrator: Prior to the arrests, on April 14th, 2021, Benoît Thomé was contacted by student journalists, who explained that they wanted to do an article on his fight against zoophilia. Thomé responded, and also referred the students to AnimalZooFrance, who had made themselves known as an opposing voice to Animal Cross’s agenda. On April 28th, the journalists reached out to AnimalZooFrance, and André, being the writer for the group, answered their questions anonymously via AnimalZooFrance’s ProtonMail. When it became clear that André in particular was under suspicion of sending violent threats to Thomé’s family, André called the journalists by phone on July 12th. Believing he would be granted the courtesy of professional secrecy, he asked the journalists if he could provide their names to the Justice to testify that he was not a violent person, based on their interview. The journalist he spoke with immediately contacted Benoît Thomé, telling him he believed he was contacted by the head of AnimalZooFrance, and gave him André’s phone number. Thomé matched it with Andre’s name on record with Animal Cross. Believing he had official proof that André was the head of AnimalZooFrance, Thomé provided the information to police, who focused their ongoing investigation on André, hoping to connect him to John Doe’s anonymous Twitter accounts and the ongoing harassment campaign. 

Narrator: Meanwhile, Animal Cross hosted another antizoo conference in September, just ahead of the senate hearing. This time, the conference was titled Animals and Children — Victims of Zoophiles, and they brought a guest speaker from across the pond with a long, prolific record of antibestiality activism.

Jenny Edwards: Hi, I’m Jenny Edwards. I specialize in a topic that is a little difficult for people to talk or even think about, and that is the subject of animal sex abuse and exploitation.

Narrator: Jenny Edwards, who bills herself as “an internationally recognized field and subject matter expert in bestiality [and] zoophilia,” began her tenure as one of America’s most active voices against bestiality when her horse rescue organization, Hope for Horses, was tasked with seizing animals involved in the infamous Enumclaw incident, which left Kenneth Pinyan dead and spawned the viral Mr. Hands video. Though Hope for Horses was implicated in multiple animal neglect incidents and eventually lost its contract with the county, Edwards went on to cofound the Chandler Edwards organization, which aimed to assist in animal sex abuse investigation, prosecution, research, and training for law enforcement. Edwards’ work primarily examines bestiality from the lens of criminology, exclusively focusing on convicted criminals and documented legal incidents involving bestiality. As such, her work skews significantly toward violent sex crime, a perspective Animal Cross found particularly valuable. In her testimony, Edwards drew extensive parallels between bestiality and criminality, and in particular, child sex abuse.

Jenny Edwards: Of all of the individuals in my study, the 456 people, 53% of them had a criminal history that frequently involved sexual assault either of an animal or of a person. Kidnapping appeared… Animal sexual abuse may also be a factor in serial homicide, sexual homicide… 

Probably the most significant act though was the fact that 45.6 of the individuals in the study — that’s almost half of the people in the study — had committed either child sexual abuse or child exploitation. They either collected child pornography, directly sexually abused a child, or had another sexual crime involving another adult. In other words, in addition to having sex with the animal in the incident that caused them to be arrested, they also sexually abused a child. A number of those children were forced to have sex with the family animal typically the family dog. At least one study indicated that about a quarter of the sexual murderers interviewed admitted that they had previously had sexual contact with an animal.

Animal sexual abuse and exploitation pornography are significantly linked to human sexual abuse and exploitation.

Kintsugi: (summarized) [All the resources cited by Jenny Edwards in her presentation have one significant flaw — not a single one of them includes data from outside of the criminal justice system. The sample population is made up entirely of convicted criminals. There’s no data regarding the prevalence of zoophilia among otherwise law-abiding citizens referenced.]

Narrator: That’s Kintsugi, queer activist, researcher and fact checker.

Kintsugi: Edwards gets to participate in lectures, talks, hearings, and bill committees, and she can spew her misinformation and bigotry out loud without any pushback. That quite literally gives her more power than any zoo, as it would take a truly heroic — or maybe reckless — person to stand up and contend her in public on that topic.

André: There was something incredible about this conference. It was the sum of the speakers, rather than the ideas of any one individual, that shocked me, more than the first conference. I experienced it as if it were a “why minorities should be locked up” conference, with speakers like: “I present to you Doctor Paul, who is going to explain to you why minorities are inferior and should be put in prison.” “Hello, I’m a doctor, and you should know that you should not have sex with minorities. They are evil and should not exist.” It really felt like that; it was the same kind of experience for me.

Narrator: Meanwhile, Animal Cross was already working with a senator to craft new language to be introduced at the upcoming hearing. On September 21, 2021, Senator Arnaud Bazin presented two amendments to the proposed antizoo legislation, inspired by Animal Cross’s dealings with AnimalZooFrance.

Arnaud: (reciting the language/justification of the law) In addition to punishing people who offer, solicit or accept [zoophilic advertisements], the system provides for the punishment of those who praise [acts of bestiality or zoophilia.] Apology is defined as praise but also as justifying, in writing or orally, an illegal act committed and/or its perpetrator. For example, zoophile forums house Internet users who justify, in writing, sexual acts performed with or towards animals.

Narrator: The clear purpose of this amendment was to target AnimalZooFrance and their outspoken activism in favor of zoophilia. A second amendment aimed to bar zoophiles from owning animals if convicted. 

Arnaud: Natural persons guilty of [acts of or solicitation for acts of bestiality] also incur additional penalties for the permanent prohibition of detaining an animal and of exercising… a professional or social activity once the facilities provided by this activity have been knowingly used to prepare or commit the offense. 

André: It’s very difficult to read all the amendments of a bill. They’re very difficult to understand, because we don’t immediately understand the meaning of these amendments and their real impact. It was only by chance that I understood the scope of these additions to the bill, and the possibility that this senator, Arnaud Bazin, was targeting me personally, and wanted to prohibit me from having animals because I was defending a certain form of zoophilia.

Even if we have processes in case of prohibition, I was afraid, I must admit, to imagine having the police one morning coming to take away my animals. It makes you think. I think about it all day and night. How would I react? Should I just stop everything? It crossed my mind several times, seeing the reaction of many of my friends around me. Some even told me, “If I lose my animals because of what you’re doing, I’m going to come to your house and beat your ass.”

Narrator: The senate’s examination of the law began on September 22. At first, deliberation showed promise. A proposal to include zoophiles in the violent crime and sex offender registry was opposed. Senator Anne Chain-Larché spoke in her unfavorable opinion:

Anne: The [violent crime and sex offender registry] is reserved for sexual offenses against humans, not animals. Let’s avoid confusion.

Narrator: When it was time to vote on September 30th, however, Chain-Larché unexpectedly reversed her position.

Anne: Indeed, I expressed an unfavorable opinion on this amendment in committee. Since then, I have had exchanges with associations fighting against domestic violence, which have confirmed to me the practical usefulness of registering these offenders in such a file. I am therefore in favor of this amendment.

Narrator: Given the nature of the conference put together by Animal Cross just a couple of weeks prior, one has to wonder what influence the misguided studies outlined by Ms. Jenny Edwards had on those who later gained Chain-Larché’s ear.

While the senate deliberated, John Doe made another appearance. Posing as an Animal Cross whistleblower, he made a last minute attempt to sway senators on September 27th, sending out emails accusing Benoît Thomé of manipulating the deputies who filed and defended the law against zoophilia, and warning again of accusations of pedophilia. 


Narrator: With the final results of the legislation pending, and with his identity already exposed, André decided to send a letter to Thomé on October 22nd, openly using his real identity. “Come and see for yourself the state of my animals,” he wrote. “They are all well-cared for, and there is no abuse.”

André: I remember once I told Pierre, when he came to live on my property, that I wanted very well cared-for animals, because if one day an animal welfare society came, I wanted them to have nothing negative to say about how we keep our animals. And I knew they would come because over time, I was changing. The more time passed, the more I wanted to be an activist. And it was a goal for me. And I knew that one day, my name would be revealed, and people would come to look at my animals. This time has not come yet. But I know it will come soon.

Narrator: André did not receive a reply to his letter. Instead, on October 26th, Animal Cross published an article on their website entitled “Portrait of a Zoophile,” using a portion of the interview André had given to the student journalists. At the bottom of the article, Thomé provided André’s full legal name and the city where he lived, effectively doxxing him publicly to Thomé’s audience. On October 31st, André made a formal complaint of his own with the Justice against Thomé, who promptly removed the offending information from his website.

Narrator: The following month, the new law went into effect, and the results were a major blow for AnimalZooFrance and the zoophiles they fought to represent. The language regarding animal sexual abuse was changed to include any sexual activity of any kind, with exceptions for artificial insemination, healthcare, and hygiene procedures — language originally shot down by the National Assembly — and carried a penalty of 3 years in jail, with a 45,000 euro fine and sex offender registration. Aggravated sexual assault carried four years and a 60,000 euro fine. Classified ads soliciting bestiality carried a one year, 15,000 euro penalty. Recording or broadcasting bestiality porn carried 2 years with a 30,000 euro fine. In addition, all of these offenses would result in animal confiscation and a permanent ban on keeping animals, and they upheld the National Assembly’s waiver of professional secrecy for vets in instances of suspected sexual activity.

Aspiryne: I was like, “Well nothing much has really changed for me, I just have to stick to what I’m doing already. Stay quiet to avoid the authority’s eye on me, and everything should be fine.” For the community, there were multiple reactions. As I said, some people completely disappeared. Some may have become more discreet than they were, more cautious. And some didn’t change at all, thinking what they were doing was already enough to keep problems away.

André: I’m afraid of how many zoo will be condemned, because many of them won’t know what they’re doing is illegal. And I’m afraid because most of them will say to the police, “I don’t harm my animals, I’m just jerking him off or he’s mounting me,” but it’s enough to be condemned and be forbidden to have animals for the rest of their lives. I’ll keep writing to every deputy, each year, to explain to them that this new law is a time bomb. One of these days, an association will use this new law to condemn some basic form of animal husbandry, like breeding animals.

Robin: Now that I read the law, I feel… how could I say without coming off as either aggressive or vindictive? I could say it feels like an attack, to an extent, but also it makes absolutely no sense in some aspects when you take into account that many agricultural exploitations use artificial, often forced, selective breeding. But that is another debate. It feels like being forced into hiding, ostracized for not “fitting in” or for “being a deviant,” pretty much like homosexuality was considered years back. Different topic and matters, but same basic tactics. In the future, a softening of the rulings, and a per case decision, with proper procedures would be a good start. Sadly things are made and worded in such a way that any contact or interaction will be considered as [on par with zoosadism], most likely due to not knowing enough about the subject, and possibly a mix of false information, premade ideas, and outdated mindsets.


Narrator: The battle between Animal Cross and AnimalZooFrance is ongoing. In court appearances, Benoît Thomé has pledged to file a complaint against both André and AnimalZooFrance, now that the new law has gone into effect, hoping to use information gathered by police to press charges. The investigation regarding André’s complaint against Thomé for his doxxing is closed, and André is hopeful that Thomé will be held accountable at the court hearing this April. And though the Justice has found no evidence of André’s involvement in the harassment campaign waged by John Doe, and will not press charges as of this recording, he still remains the primary suspect.

André: The Justice still thinks I’m John Doe. I was at a hearing on the first of December, and the instruction judge asked me if I made the death threats and all the other things, like the pictures of child pornography sent to Benoît Thomé’s home. The judge asked me, “You said you were a computer scientist. Couldn’t you have made the threats?” When I told her no, she was surprised, and seemed to smile, probably thinking I was lying. I had to explain I don’t know how to make a payment with an anonymous blue card behind a VPN.

Narrator: This is a story that is still unfolding, and it’s difficult to predict where it will go next. But even so, there are lessons to learn from the ordeal that André, AnimalZooFrance, and all the zoos in the so-called “Land of Human Rights” have endured. André’s arrest and the subsequent passing of the new laws have left the French community shattered. People are afraid, and understandably so. By taking a stand on his own without the vocal support of his community, André drew all of Animal Cross’ ire directly onto himself. Our purpose is not to shame the French zoophile community, because the reality is that for now, we’re not fully prepared to take on a well-connected animal rights organization that decides to make its name by treading on our backs. ZETA Verein succeeded in protecting the interests of zoophiles in Germany because they were organized and visible as a group, but they had the advantage of fighting on turf where the practice of their sexuality wasn’t already criminalized. But most of us, including the French zoo community, don’t have that advantage. More challenges are coming, and if we’re going to meet them, we need to have a solid foundation in place. 

Zoophiles and Animal Cross are more alike than we are different. We both love animals. We both want to improve their lives and elevate their legal and social status and eliminate cruelty. But our concept for human-animal relationships extends to include the possibility for safe, mutually enjoyable sex. Theirs does not.

To them, sex is always abusive and a prelude to violence against others, impossible to reconcile with animal rights advocacy. To us, ignoring the possibility of sexual relationships is a glaring moral inconsistency that makes it easy to excuse cruelty and sex abuse in other contexts. 

Animal Cross is small, but organized, well-funded, and loud. Crucially, they have the upper hand because their campaign is safer and easier than ours. They can exploit people’s ignorance on zoophilia, emphasize shocking stories, misattribute sadistic acts, and cherry pick from sparse research to connect zoophiles to violent crime, to elicit fear and disgust, and push people in the direction they want them to go. Anybody who pushes back risks their political future, their career, relationships, even violence, by being branded one of us. 

We can get loud and organized too, and we should. But without scientific consensus and support from academics and mental health professionals, we won’t have the credibility we need to mount an opposition against the misinformation that’s propagated by organizations like Animal Cross. Spreading sensational lies is fast and easy; correcting them is much harder. Marjolaine Baron, the French academic who spoke at Animal Cross’s first conference, wasn’t interested in hearing perspectives from the very group she wrote her thesis about, but there are researchers right now who very much are, and we need to cooperate with them. At the time of this recording, a survey is being conducted right now by the University of Massachusetts, and there are more on the horizon, with the possibility for unprecedented collaboration. Academics are listening. This is our chance to tell them who we are. 

If there’s anything we can learn from André’s arrest, it’s that the solidarity gained from coming out to our closest family and friends can be safer than staying closeted, particularly if we plan to work in highly visible roles. Even if your activism isn’t center stage, the more open you can be with people you trust, the better they are able to help you. Not everyone is in a position to make this kind of decision, but consider how things blew up for Emile, who had the chance to come out to his family on his own terms stolen from him when police unexpectedly showed up at his house. We say it a lot: Exposure is the solution, not only because it makes us visible to the people who matter, but also because it helps us manage the risks inherent to our lifestyle and our work.

Laws can’t change who we fundamentally are, and we live our lives as we always have. The future is uncertain for AnimalZooFrance and the French zoophile community, but Robin Faucher remains hopeful.

Robin: Optimistically, I hope that people will come to understand and accept zoos, and learn that most of us are not what they think, just people who genuinely love and care about animals, even if most would rather keep it to themselves. If I could, I’d like to meet others like myself, for sure. Being stuck in the country makes things a bit hard as of now, but meeting new, likeminded people sounds good, and would be a nice thing to have for sure.

Aspiryne: My hope is to get my own partner. My work shift doesn’t allow me enough time to take proper care of a puppy, but next year I hope to welcome him in my life. Hoping for the best for us. I hope my friends won’t get into any trouble with that new law, and that I’ll still be able to meet them when I plan parties for a long time to come. Basically, I’m focused on my partner, me, my friends, and I hope the best for everyone without many troubles.

André: We as a community have the great fortune of having people like Aspiryne with us, and I want to thank him right now. As I said, everyone has a gift, and Aspiryne’s gift is his sociability, his ability to be friends with everybody, and to not be afraid to meet new people. And, thanks to him, the community is still alive. If people like him weren’t here, the community behind AnimalZooFrance, which has been here for over 15 years, wouldn’t be here anymore. So I want to thank him.

Interviewer: You’ve been through quite an ordeal over the past couple of years. What do you plan to do in the future?

André: I won’t change a thing. I’ll do everything I can to keep zoos informed, to explain what they have to be aware of with regard to the new law. I think we have to know exactly what’s legal and what’s illegal. This is really what I want to do. I’ll also try to meet new people in real life. I’d love to visit the US some day and meet new zoos there.