The Supreme Court today struck down a law against selling videos that show animal cruelty, voting 8-1, the AP reported.
“The justices threw out the criminal conviction of Robert Stevens of Pittsville, Va., who was sentenced to three years in prison for videos he made about pit bull fights,” an AP reporter writes. “…Stevens ran a business and Web site that sold videos of pit bull fights. He is among a handful of people prosecuted under the animal cruelty law.”
According to the AP’s report, the assenting justices voted in favor of striking down the law, which was enacted in 1999 to prevent the making and selling of crush videos, to avoid limiting free speech. “[Chief Justice John] Roberts said the law could be read to allow the prosecution of the producers of films about hunting. And he scoffed at the administration’s assurances that it would only apply the law to depictions of extreme cruelty.”
Does it not violate the spirit of the constitution if free speech comes at the expense of life? And perhaps a ban on videos that glorify the cowardly practice of shooting an unarmed, unassuming creature with an automatic weapon is, in fact, a positive, if unpopular, application of the law.
The single dissenting judge, Justice Samuel Alito, told the AP that the ruling might spur a new wave of crush videos because it has “the practical effect of legalizing the sale of such videos.” That is not to mention the sale of dog-, cock-, and bull-fighting videos, all of which promote cruelty as sport.
Roberts implied that this might be an opportunity for lawmakers to draft new legislation that will specifically ban filming and selling crush videos and other depictions of “extreme” cruelty. But who decides what amount of cruelty is acceptable? To me and many readers of this blog, hunting, fishing, and even butchering and some cooking videos constitute irresponsible depiction of extreme, unnecessary cruelty and exploitation. As god-awful annoying as those Got Milk? commercials are insomuch as they bring to mind the miserable lives of dairy cows, I’m willing to concede that those less direct implications of animal cruelty needn’t be banned. But why must we recoil at the broader applications of a law that was apparently pointing us toward more aware and rational conclusions?
As of this decision, there is no protection for animals filmed being brutalized, and no punishment for those who profit off filming the brutalization of animals. Contact your representative to politely and firmly ask for a law that protects animals from starring in “films” depicting their own cruelty.
Below, ABC’s report.