Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Supreme Court Decision on Animal Cruelty Videos

So I read some disturbing news this morning. Was not the way I wanted to start my day, but it happens. I received several emails regarding a recent decision by the Supreme Court to overturn a law that made it illegal to sell videos that depict animal cruelty as entertainment. Apparently, the decision was reached because the law is said to be written in too broad of terms and there are First Amendment rights being compromised. The Court struggled with the vagueness of when the depiction of animal cruelty is or is not (i.e. legal hunting/fishing) an illegal act. From the decision:

"(2) Section 48 creates a criminal prohibition of alarming breadth. The statute's definition of a "depiction of animal cruelty" does not even require that the depicted conduct be cruel. While the words "maimed, mutilated, [and] tortured" convey cruelty, "wounded" and "killed" do not. Those words have little ambiguity and should be read according to their ordinary meaning. Section 48 does require that the depicted conduct be "illegal," but many federal and state laws concerning the proper treatment of animals are not designed to guard against animal cruelty. For example, endangered species protections restrict even the humane wounding or killing of animals. The statute draws no distinction based on the reason the conduct is made illegal."

According to reports, “the case throws out the conviction of Robert Stevens, who sold videos depicting dogfighting, which is illegal in every state. Stevens was convicted under a 1999 law passed to ban the sale of ‘crush videos,’ in which women crushed to death small animals, to satisfy the sexual fetishes of internet customers. Crush videos virtually disappeared from the internet following passage of the law, before the government initiated a single prosecution. The Bush Administration's indictment of Stevens in 2004 was the first time this law was used.” But with this new decision, animal protection organizations are saying cruel videos are already returning to the internet.

Animal rights groups, like In Defense of Animals (IDA), are urging Congress to immediately write a new bill that will be able to pass the Supreme Court’s First Amendment analysis. "Cases like this have immediate consequences that can only lead to more cruelty and abuse. Real animals will suffer and die in horrific ways because the Court has declared that animal cruelty and suffering can be sold as entertainment. This case is a huge step backward for the evolution of a humane society," said Dr. Elliot M. Katz, a veterinarian and president of IDA.

Okay, so the law was vague and others feared First Amendment Right infringements, THEN let’s sit down and re-write the law before more animals are harmed. Yes, I know it takes FOREVER to write laws, but when someone’s life depends on it, I think that counts of high importance. Animal rights organizations will be working hard to ensure a new law gets passed and animals remain protected. 

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