Animal Defenders International (ADI) urged Congress to take immediate action after a landmark Supreme Court ruling has left vulnerable animals without protection against extreme violence and cruelty. The Court decided that legislation passed 10 years ago to prevent extreme acts of cruelty, such as in dog fighting and “crush” videos, must be set aside.
Although the Court recognized that child pornography falls out of the realm of First Amendment free speech protection, it refused to extend the same protection to animals. Justifying its decision, the Court feared that the law as written would sweep too broadly, and could make illegal the commercial sale of hunting magazines, bull-fighting videos, or videos of other legal acts that often result in harm to animals.
ADI believes that the killing of animals to make videos for sexual or violent gratification is offensive to every compassionate citizen, not only animal rights advocates. Extreme and illegal acts of animal cruelty, such as animal fighting videos or “crush videos,” in which a woman in high-heeled shoes crushes a small and defenseless animal to death (including cats, dogs, monkeys, hamsters, or mice) must be outlawed.
Justice Samuel Alito disagreed with the majority’s ruling last Wednesday (April 21), writing in his dissent that the law at issue was not aimed at legitimate speech that warrants First Amendment protection, but rather was enacted “to prevent horrific acts of animal cruelty— in particular, the creation and commercial exploitation of ‘crush videos,’ a form of depraved entertainment that has no social value.” He notes that the Court’s decision is “likely to spur a resumption of (crush video) production,” and “is unwarranted.” ADI agrees.
In reacting to the Supreme Court decision, Andrea Santarsiere, Legislative Affairs Manager for Animal Defenders International, said: “It is deeply disappointing that the Court refused to include animal cruelty videos in the spectrum of speech that falls outside of the protections of the First Amendment. The law was intended to prosecute those profiting from the extreme pain and distress of innocent animals, and now those who could be prosecuted for such heinous crimes will walk free. ADI will urge Congress to act quickly in passing another law that will pass constitutional muster.”
Significantly, while the Court struck down the law at issue as overly broad, the Court did “not decide whether a statute limited to crush videos or other depictions of extreme animal cruelty would be constitutional.” ADI therefore urges Congress and Rep. Elton Gallegly (R., Calif.), the original law’s sponsor, to act quickly to introduce a narrower measure to outlaw the commercial sale of videos depicting extreme animal cruelty.
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In an 8-1 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held as unconstitutional a law invalidating the commercial sale of videos depicting extreme animal cruelty.
The law was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1999, and was successful in its aims, making crush videos that were previously widely available on the internet difficult to find. Furthermore, in 2003, respondent Robert Stevens was convicted under the law for selling videotapes depicting pit bulls in dogfights and attacking other animals. Stevens challenged the law as unconstitutional, which began the path that led to the Supreme Court’s ruling above.
ABOUT Animal Defenders International (ADI):
With offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogota, ADI campaigns to protect animals in entertainment; replace animals in experiments; end worldwide traffic of endangered species; promote vegetarianism; alleviate distress suffered in factory farms, and educate the public on other animal welfare issues. ADI also rescues animals in distress worldwide. Our evidence has led to campaigns and legislative action all over the world.