More than a decade ago, it came to the attention of our government and others that there are sick fucks in the world who wank to depictions of animal torture, so Congress made it illegal.
As Adam Liptak at the New York Times reported on Tuesday, at the time, although abusing animals in that fashion was and is obviously illegal (and immoral and unconscionable and straight-up disgusting), trafficking in the depictions of ritualized animal abuse for sexual purposes was not. So Congress, in the same way that it has seen fit to criminalize the trafficking in child pornography, made it illegal.
Which was all well and good, until some ever-so-slightly-less sick fuck named Robert Stevens was convicted under the same law for selling videos of dog fights.
In July, by a vote of 10 to 3, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, reversed Mr. Stevens’s conviction and struck down the law, saying it violated the constitutional right to free speech.
Last month, the United States solicitor general asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. “Depictions of the intentional infliction of suffering on vulnerable creatures,” the brief said, “play no essential role in the expression of ideas.” The First Amendment, the brief went on, is therefore irrelevant to the case.
What the ruling has meant, in practical terms, is that some people no longer feel bound by the law which once all-but prevent people from trafficking in this:
“Much of the material featured women inflicting the torture with their bare feet or while wearing high-heeled shoes,” the report said. “In some video depictions, the woman’s voice can be heard talking to the animals in a kind of dominatrix patter. The cries and squeals of the animals, obviously in great pain, can also be heard in the videos.”
In fact, the Humane Society says these videos — which had nearly disappeared from the marketplace — have begun reappearing since the appeals court ruling.
But since July, [Jonathan R. Lovvorn, chief counsel of the Humane Society] said, crush videos have “popped back up on the Internet as a result of the Third Circuit’s ruling.”
Mr. Lovvorn provided a reporter with links to two examples, one involving a kitten, the other a puppy. May you never see them.
Jill Filipovich over at Feministe (a lawyer herself) has a look at the Constitutional issues at play and, despite her revulsion about the acts, thinks the law won't pass muster when it comes before the Supreme Court.
Animal cruelty is illegal for good reason. Videos of animal cruelty are disgusting. And I desperately want to think of a reason why outlawing these videos should pass constitutional muster.
But I can’t. I just hope that, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision here, law enforcement starts cracking down on cruelty to animals — especially cruelty for profit, like dog-fighting. Congress also has the option of re-writing the law to target crush porn specifically; if they take other depictions of animal cruelty out of it and focus only on obscenity-related cruelty, I would guess that the law would have a better chance at standing.
Basically, the law has rarely, if ever, been used against the kitty-torture pornographers it was supposedly designed to go after and has almost always been to crack down on people distributing videos of dog fights: but, having been written so broadly could be used to prosecute videos of bull fights in Spain or documentaries of cruelty at slaughterhouses.
If the appeals ruling stands, Congress would be able to — in between fighting about Roland Burris, the stimulus package and health care reform — pass a small little feel-good bill that would re-criminalize trafficking in animal torture pornography. Anybody want to check and see if their Congress member wants to sponsor that bill?