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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Help Stem the Tide of Animal "Crush" Videos

The big news this week was the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a federal law barring the commercial sale of videos depicting extreme animal cruelty. The measure—originally introduced by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1999—had succeeded in drying up the market for animal crush videos, where scantily-clad and high-heeled women stomp and squish animals to death for the titillation of viewers who are turned on by the killing. The law had also been used to prosecute a known dogfighter who had trafficked in animal fighting videos, and it was his conviction that the appellate court struck down, with the Supreme Court affirming that decision.

Cat

Often when laws are passed, it’s difficult to gauge their tangible impact on the ground. But here we had a law that succeeded in doing exactly what it was designed to do: There were at least 3,000 separately produced crush videos readily available in the marketplace selling for up to $300 apiece in the late 1990s, but after the new law was enacted, they all but vanished. A decade later, once the law was invalidated, we saw crush videos repopulate the Internet and the makers of these snuff films given a free pass to come back out of their dark corners.

While the court’s majority was caught up in hypothetical scenarios, only Justice Samuel Alito—whose springer spaniel, Zeus, is sometimes seen around the court—focused on the real world impact on animals. Alito dissented, noting that the majority has struck down “a valuable statute that was enacted not to suppress speech, but 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.” Justice Alito explained that “the animals used in crush videos are living creatures that experience excruciating pain. Our society has long banned such cruelty, which is illegal throughout the country.”

The court did provide a pathway for a more narrowly drafted law to be constitutional, and HSLF and our allies in Congress are already pushing hard to advance that new policy. Rep. Gallegly, along with Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and more than 50 bipartisan cosponsors, yesterday introduced H.R. 5092, to end the intentional crushing, burning, drowning and impaling of puppies, kittens and other animals for the depraved purpose of peddling videos of such extreme acts of animal cruelty.

We are going to fight hard to get Congress to move quickly on this new legislation, to stem the tide of crush videos and save animals from this sickening torment. Please take action today and urge your lawmakers to support H.R. 5092. And please consider giving an emergency donation to HSLF to help us continue our work to snuff out these snuff films and confront other cruelties.

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