Linux distro Debian is under fire for distributing a software package containing an "ASCII representation of zoophilia." Specifically, a sheep shagging a cow.
According to a bug report filed this month, Debian user Felicia Hummel installed a package called "cowsay", which renders text in speech or thought balloons with ASCII art of cows and other animals. But with the default setting of "install suggests" enabled, a controversial second "recommends" package called "cowsay-off" is also installed when bringing in cowsay.
And, dear reader, cowsay-off contains the offending ASCII sex act.
The Debian package page for cowsay-off admits: "This package contains cows which some may consider to be offensive. Please do not install this package if you or your users are easily offended."
The -off tag is also used in other Debian packages, such as fortunes-off.
Hummel complained specifically about a file called sodomized-sheep.cow, saying: "This is a legal issue in many countries. Even if it's not well-defined by law if ASCII representations of zoophilia are legal or not, I'd rather prefer not to take a chance being involved in a lawsuit when such a file could be found on my computer."
Someone called "Tehnic" then suggested that cowsay-off be changed to a suggested package and that it should also ask for confirmation on install, which Hummel accepted was reasonable.
Hummel did not respond to a request for comment from The Register.
The exact content of the image is unclear. While Hummel described a depiction of bestiality, Debian contributor Dominik George told The Reg he was "pretty certain" that "the being sodomising the sheep in the questionable artwork is *not* a human being, but Tux the penguin*."
Offensive ... Screenshot of the silly utility in question running in a Docker container on an El Reg laptop (click to enlarge)
Regardless, several users took issue that the artwork existed in the first place. One Debian fan The Register approached suggested creating a third package for it, while others called for a more clear tag such as "-obscene" or "-offensive".
Myles Jackman, a London lawyer specialising in obscenity cases, told El Reg that compositions or line drawings of bestiality are not illegal in the UK, as long as humans that appear under the age of 18 are not depicted. He said laws might vary from country to country.
Debian user Bosel Stefan told The Register: "I think this issue should not be blown out of proportion and I am confident the Debian team will find the right solution."
The package maintainer, Tony Maillefaud, did not respond to a request for comment. It's understood the package's contents are a long-running joke in the Debian world. In a mailing list post, Mailefaud wrote on Monday: "I will use the Suggests field instead of the Recommends field. Unfortunately i'm really busy right now but be sure i will fix this as soon as i can." ®
* It looks like a cow screwing a sheep to us – and the filename of the template
/usr/share/cowsay/cows/sodomized-sheep.cow suggests as much.