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What are your thoughts about the Supreme Court ruling? There are two sides to this story.  I wanted to share some comments on both sides and their links.  I know your feedback and thoughts would very much be appreciated.  There is a never ending battle about what is “right” , our constitutional rights and what they really mean, views on animals and how they should be treated, etc.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday forcefully struck down a federal law aimed at banning depictions of dog fighting and other violence against animals, saying it violated constitutional guarantees of free speech and created a “criminal prohibition of alarming breadth.”

The 8 to 1 ruling, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., was a ringing endorsement of the First Amendment’s protection of even distasteful expression. Roberts called “startling and dangerous” the government’s argument that the value of certain categories of speech should be weighed against their societal costs when protecting free speech.

The law was enacted in 1999 to forbid sales of so-called crush videos. They appeal to a certain sexual fetish by depicting the torture of animals — cats, dogs, monkeys, mice and hamsters, according to Congress — or showing them being crushed to death by women wearing stiletto heels or with their bare feet. While dog-fighting and other forms of animal cruelty are already illegal, Congress said the legislation was necessary to stop the production of videos for commercial gain.

Wayne Pacelle with the Humane Society of the United States states, “The U.S. Supreme Court dealt animals a serious blow in its ruling today, upholding an appellate court decision that invalidated the federal law banning the commercial sale of videos showing illegal and extreme acts of animal cruelty. The Court got hung up in a stream of hypothetical scenarios, imagining that the law as worded might sweep up the sellers of hunting, bullfighting, and other videos that the federal lawmakers never intended to address.

With Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the eight justices in the majority, the Court ruled that the statute was substantially overbroad, saying that the criminal prohibitions in the statutes were of “alarming breadth.” The justices did conclude by saying we “do not decide whether a statute limited to crush videos or other depictions of extreme animal cruelty would be constitutional. We only hold that §48 is not so limited but is instead substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment.”  The Supreme Court also reinforced the important and compelling government interest in protecting animals from cruelty and abuse, noting that “the prohibition of animal cruelty itself has a long history in American law, starting with the early settlement of the Colonies.”

We look forward to your comments and suggestions on this issue.

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15 Responses to “Supreme Court overturns Anti-Animal Cruelty Law in First Amendment Case”

  • R Cochran says:

    This has nothing to do with the first amendment rights, the reason is because the acts portrayed within these videos is against the law. The first amendment doesn’t protect illegal acts. Video of humans being tortured or snuff type scenes are prohibited and thus these should be as well.
    Anyone that has a fetish for the brutalization of an animal isn’t fit to be walking our streets. Would you want that person teaching your children at school? How about living next to you?
    I and a group of people are working to re-write this bill and re-present it to the house asap.
    This type of cruelty needs to be nipped in the bud. Thanks, Donna for posting this I know many people are completely oblivious to the type of cruelty that animals go through.

  • Matt says:

    I’ve never heard of a “Crush” fetish until this, much less any videos to the same. WTH is that all about anyway?? I’m for first amendment rights, but dont really see the purpose in this. Maybe we should be looking into who would buy or watch such things, that scares me more.

  • Paul says:

    I think that some people have missed the point of the ruling and have not thought this through very well.

    The justices did conclude by saying we “do not decide whether a statute limited to crush videos or other depictions of extreme animal cruelty would be constitutional. We only hold that §48 is not so limited but is instead substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment.”

    Consider this, in its TV commercials to solicit funds HSUS uses videos depicting animal abuse. Should they be prosecuted for distributing these video depictions of animal cruelty? I don’t think so. But, the law made no distinction that would grant the HSUS or any other animal rights group the right to posses or distribute such depictions of animal cruelty. The law was poorly written, so write one that is constitutional.

  • MaryEllen says:

    While I am horrified by the thought that such activity is allowed to go on, it is my understanding that the legislation was poorly written, and did not restrict itself to videos of people committing animal cruelty that is criminal (as legally defined). Therefore, they felt that the law was open to an interpretation that videos of things like hunting, rodeos, etc. (which I am opposed to but which are completely legal) could also be restricted. The 1st Amendment is not something to be taken lightly, and it is very, very rare that a law is passed that infringes on it – the only one I can think of is child pornography. A more tightly written bill, that specifies that it refers to felony acts of animal cruelty, would probably have passed. I hope that such a bill is being worked on right now, and will go through the next time.

  • Irv Lichtenstein says:

    There are laws against murder but filming and selling pictures of murder is free speech. Over the years the Court has differentiated between personal speech, political speech, and commercial speech. Congress has weighed in also. With a court that interprets the Constitution strictly no restrictions on speech or publishing are tolerated. Crushing is fetish of consenting adults. Children can not consent so recording what are, solely by lack of ability to consent, criminal acts, becomes an accessory charge. In pornography cases the date of birth of the participants determines criminallity. Under this statutue spanking is abuse and the image of a parent being hauled in because they filmed touching their child’s ass is abhorent. Under this act or ones like those cute bear rug pictures of your grandchildren are child pornography if as usual they are partially unclothed.

    How would prosecute cruelty cases if the evidence was illegal to have, let alone show in court on its face? There are enough problems with search and seizure now because many humane officers don’t go to the same training police detectives do.

    You don’t have to like what somebody says, but you do have to defend their right to say it.

  • Kim says:

    I agree with all comments above. This will do nothing but encourage more videos to be made. The justice system is way out of touch with reality on this one. The way we treat our animals or allow them to be treated says alot about us. How can dog fighting be illegal but the videos aren’t. Ridiculous!

  • Dianna Hillers says:

    I am outraged. If the filming or photographing of a child being molested or physically abused is against the law, because the actual act is against the law, why does this not follow through with the abuse of animals, whether it be the actual act or the films/videos/pictures? I believe they are speaking out of both sides of their mouth. Why do we allow the politicians, judges and other officials of our country continue to do what only benefits them financially? Time to take a stand.

  • Bobbi says:

    It looks like new legislation is in the works: Please encourage your representatives to vote for measures that will pass constitutional muster while still protecting animals.

  • Dog fighting is illegal, so how can the sale of videos depicting an illegal activity be “protected free speech”? It is also illegal for criminals to profit from the sale of books etc. describing their crimes. So again I don’t understand how can it be considered protected to profit from the sale of videos depicting a crime?

    What’s next, the sale of videos depicting rape, murder, pedophilia, necrophilia?

    I am disgusted with our “justice” system.

  • Jessica T. says:

    I echo the comments of Terry and Maureen above.

    This is just wrong, and quite upsetting. What kind of sick world do we live in, where the law is on the side of these morally vacant individuals?

    I get the idea of free speech, but there’s no way the Constitution was created to legally allow for such disgusting behavior.

    For those that think this is acceptable, let’s put the shoe on the other foot. What if this were your family?? I suspect you would suddenly disagree.

  • ChrisLWagner says:

    What is really comes down to is that the animal cruelty depicted by these videos, in the courts mind, does not reach the level of human cruelty or pornography.

    Like you said, “Roberts called “startling and dangerous” the government’s argument that the value of certain categories of speech should be weighed against their societal costs when protecting free speech.” The value of certain categories is the key phrase.

    What gets me is that these acts are already illegal, so why is it OK to sell videos showing illegal acts.

    I fear that this will energize animal abuser and we’ll see a rash of new videos. Plan B would be to completely ban crush videos and impose extremely strict laws, convict these sickos and throw away the key.

  • Terry says:

    It is another notch towards the downfall of our society. By allowing such videos and cruelty only compels and powers those individuals who are mentally unstable to pursue the wanton destruction and pain of helpless animals. Those same individuals turn that same violence towards humans. We wonder why there is so much violence. The sanctity of life and the holiness of life no matter what your religion or not, the respect of life has been reduced to almost nil.
    It is one thing to have free speech. It is another to shed blood while speaking freely, much less a video to show the actual torture and torment.
    I cannot believe we are even having this conversation.

  • Patrick McCall says:

    However disgusting these activities are, the Constitution does not allow for the Federal Gov’t to prohibit it. Shunning and condemning the individuals for their stupid use of the 1st Amendment is appropriate. Additionaly, any individuals found to be torturing animals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If the laws do not provide enough punishment, lobby your State representatives to enact laws appropriate to these acts of cruelty.

  • Maureen says:

    When I attended the ‘Taking Action For Animals’ workshop last year in DC (put on by HSUS), I picked up a button that I pinned to my purse that says “Humans aren’t the only species on earth, they just act that way.” For me this pretty much sums up my reaction to the overturn of this ruling. If these videos depicted HUMAN life being tortured in such manners, that would definitely be grounds not only for removal of the videos, but imprisonment!! Why should animals be treated with any less dignity? I think it’s appalling.

  • Christine says:

    “Don’t like it at all!”

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