Do 275,000 Swiss people have sex with animals?

18th Oct 2011

The eye-catching story of a man brought before a Swiss court for having sex with three separate dogs prompted both The Sun and the Daily Mail to speculate about the prevalence of zoophilia in the alpine state.

According to the reports: "Up to 275,000 Swiss people — out of a population of 8million — have sex with animals, a survey claimed last year." (The Sun, 14 October 2011)

However the Minority Thought blog has traced the origin of this claim, and it seems to have much less to do with the sexual deviancies of the Swiss population than readers might have thought.

As Minority Thought found, the same story appeared in the Swiss paper, The Local, a few days before the articles were published in the British papers. After relaying the specifics of the trial of the man in question, the article it referred to a report in Tages Anzeiger, a Zurich paper, which said that 5 per cent of Swiss males and 2 per cent of Swiss women had sexual relationships with animals.

This article in Tages Anzeiger (written in German) seems point to the source of the confusion. It apparently discusses a conference at the University of Zurich about the 'Psychological Aspects of Animal Law' and warns of the "widespread" phenomenon of zoophilia.

It was here that the 275,000 figure for Swiss zoophiles was put forward, and it seems it is a simple calculation using estimates of the frequency of zoophilia among populations made by Alfred Kinsey in the 1950s.

His estimation was based on interviews with 20,000 Americans, reaching the conclusion that some 8 per cent of men, and 3.5 per cent of women, had at least once had sexual contact with animals. These estimates were updated in the 1970s to give the figures of 5 per cent of men and 2 per cent of women.

The article then extrapolates these percentages to the Swiss population, finding a total of 275,000 zoophiles in Switzerland.

Far from the Swiss being a remarkable case therefore, the Mail and Sun are actually using figures based upon studies of the American population in the 1950s.

Given this, Full Fact couldn't help but think that perhaps the papers had missed a bigger story. For example, how many Britons could be classed zoophiles using this methodology?

Welsh football fans often have to bear being the butt of jokes when visiting English rivals about their presumed relations with the sheep population. As at 30th June 2010, there were approximately 3 million people resident in Wales, some 1,471,000 males and 1,536,000 females.

Using the methodology implied by the Sun and the Mail, we would find that this translates as 104,260 zoophiles in the valleys (73,550 men and 30,710 women).

However in England there are approximately 25,110,000 males and 25,980,000 females. This would mean a total zoophile population of 1,775,600 (1,256,000 men and 519,600 women). Judging by these figures, certain English football fans may wish to reconsider their chants.

Of course the comparison is a glib one, as a study of American residents from the 1950s can tell us little about the relative levels of zoophilia in England, Wales, or indeed Switzerland in the 21st Century. While the articles aren't necessarily cock-and-bull stories, we'd certainly recommend that the papers' estimates of the number of Swiss zoophiles are taken with a pinch of salt.

The Daily Mail has now taken down the article from its website.