We are all sinners, whether we do it openly or behind closed doors. Some people sin just a little bit, like lying or cheating. Others sin so severely that it becomes forbidden by law, or a crime against humanity at the very least. The word stems from Greek and means something like ‘missing the mark’, referring to marks that God was supposed to have set for us. But the mighty Lord’s seven sins, such as greed and despair, aren’t really the problem anymore. This is 2020 and it is safe to say that people collectively and exceedingly fall short of God’s expectations. We may not be inherently evil, but we surely are inherently weak. We do very naughty things these days, so naughty that animals don’t even do them at the zoo. Or do they?  

We are practically the same as animals, so why wouldn’t our behaviour be? But animals seem so innocent, surely they don’t sin the way we do? Say, for instance, by engaging in sexual activities with dead bodies? Necrophilia is pretty sick and doesn’t make much evolutionary sense, so it probably won’t cross an animal’s mind. It is often practised by people with an extreme fear of rejection. True fact, no resistance to be expected there. But animals can’t feel rejection right? They just wanna produce offspring, which is unlikely to succeed when shagging corpses. Well, whatever their motivation: necrophilia has been confirmed in many, many animals. Just to illustrate: an otter was caught drowning females before helping himself to their carcasses, and a duck was seen pecking at a dead duck for life signals before humping it for 75 minutes straight.   

But even though that’s slightly disturbing, perhaps animals are just too dumb to be fully aware of what they’re doing. What about other sins, surely they won’t do something as naughty as say, prostitution? You’ll be damned, they do. Adélie penguins mate for life and have the odd preference to build their love nest out of stones. Unfortunately, there aren’t many stones in Adélie penguin land. So the ladies sometimes wander off at night to exchange their body for stones. And they aren’t the only ones. Chimpanzee ladies occasionally engage in the unethical act with chimpanzee boys to be rewarded with meat after the monkey business is done. And when you teach capuchin monkeys too exchange coins for a variety of treats, you will soon find that they prefer to spend money on food and, occasionally, sex. 

All right all right, so animals prostitute themselves sporadically for an extra goodie, no harm being done right? At least it benefits both parties and might blossom into a new generation. What about masturbation: surely animals know better than that? Oh no, they don’t. Lots of animals seem to enjoy a bit of self-pleasure every now and then. In primates alone 80 different species have been caught turning the hand to themselves. Orangutans even use sticks for this purpose, a rather striking resemblance to dildos. Animals without the luxury of having hands, such as dolphins and elephants, enjoy their alone-time by rubbing their genitals on the sea floor or wooden trunks. Bats are even agile enough to lick their own penis. And they do, until they ejaculate, while hanging upside down.  

Fine, animals are as pervert as we are. What about real evil sins, like racism and slavery? Animals all look alike anyway, no point in discriminating right? So apparently, and unfortunately, animals too keep a strict pecking order. Rats are social creatures and help each other out when in need. But there are different kind of rats: white ones, brown ones, and black ones. When in distress, they normally only help rats of their own colour, unless taught differently. And the animal kingdom isn’t unfamiliar with slavery either. There are six species of slave-making ants that, as the name reveals, exploit other ants. They raid nests and use chemical warfare to confuse adults, so they can steal their eggs and raise the ant babies as slaves.

My lord. All right, let’s take it even further. War, surely war is human specific? What species in the right mind would slaughter its own kind; way to go survival right? So, the slave-making ants are a bit of a problem. They sometimes turn the nests they raid into somewhat of a genocide, leaving piles of corpses in their wake to get to the eggs. Other ant species form armies that go into battle with rival colonies, ripping each other’s heads off in their tens of thousands. Quite the horror show. But that’s just bugs, what about real animals? We know that lions, wolves and hyenas do a bit of collaborative killing. Chimpanzees even form gangs that plan murder ahead in time. What triggers violence in chimps is uncertain, but battles can go on for years and will claim many innocent victims on both sides. Sounds familiar? 

It’s pretty evil, but biologists argue that it’s not all bad. Deadly combat can work in an individual’s favour if it results in new territory, increased access to food, higher social status, and better chances of getting laid. It’s like that in animals and no different in humans. But if we can explain the purpose of war, what about drugs? We love that shit, even though it doesn’t get us very far in life. Ever seen a chimp spike heroine on the discovery channel? I didn’t think so. Truth is, animals would go low to get high just like us if they had the chance. When lab animals are given access to alcohol or cocaine, they will intoxicate themselves into a full-blown addiction. And wild animals seek for opportunities no less. Mountain goats like spacing out on hallucinogenic lichens, reindeer get zonked on psychedelic mushrooms, elephants trash themselves with rotten marula fruits, wallabies get high on opium seeds, and dolphins trip their balls off on pufferfish. 

So there is that. I guess animals ain’t innocent either. But at least they do it without shame and don’t constantly apologize to some almighty God. We, on the other hand, constantly judge ourselves for giving into temptation. Whenever we enjoy life just a bit too much it seems to come with a sense of guilt. But couldn’t there be a legitimate reason why we have these desires in the first place? Forbidden fruits might simply be part of our diet, and sinning part of our nature. Magic mushrooms and masturbation: if animals can do it without shame, so can we! Although I do want to emphasize that we should let the deceased rest in peace... and we mustn’t behave like racist rats either. If we sin, we all sin together! And we should probably also stop getting our way in life with violence and warfare. But otherwise: go wild! Being a bit naughty at times ain’t all that bad.