A law against selling videos of animal cruelty was overturned last year in favor of Robert J. Stevens and his dog-fight video business. Steep increases in the number of available “crush videos” where small animals are crushed to appease a sexual fetish have prompted a request to the Supreme Court to make this unspeakable act illegal again.
The 1999 law signed by President Clinton made it unlawful to sell “crush videos” and nearly all depictions of animal cruelty. Stevens and his lawyers utilized the First Amendment to convince the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia to reverse his 37-month conviction and strike down the law altogether. The United States solicitor general has asked Supreme Court hear the case soon.
The most likely scenario under which the Supreme Court would re-enact the law would be that they include animal cruelty as a category wholly outside First Amendment protection. Currently, the only such categories are fighting words, some kinds of incitement, obscenity, and, as of 1982, nonobscene pornography involving children.
While acts such as dog-fighting and animal cruelty are illegal, the selling of their depictions is not. Clinton and Congress at the time recognized that allowing profits to be gained by promoting these acts would encourage their growth. Before the law, “crush videos” were sold for $15-$300. Despite the small size of the sexual niche, it was still considered profitable because of the low costs to produce them.
All that is needed to produce one is a video camera, a woman in high heels, and a kitten or a puppy.
If the Supreme Court is unswayed by the sadistic nature of these acts, it is likely that the practice will continue to grow and circulate across the country.
Image: Lastexit on Flickr under Creative Commons license.