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Supreme Court strikes down Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act

Edited as of Thu 22 Apr 2010 - 00:29
Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

The U.S. Supreme Court this week struck down a law forbidding depictions of animal cruelty.

The 1999 Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act was passed in response to outcry over the creation of so-called "crush" videos featuring the deaths of small animals.

The case, United States v. Stevens, involved videos containing scenes of dogfights. In the 8-1 majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts said:

While the prohibition of animal cruelty has a long history in American law, there is no evidence of a similar tradition prohibiting depictions of such cruelty.

See also: Cat Killing is OK as Art?

The government proposed that speech be subject to a "balancing test"; this approach was rejected by the court as incompatible with First Amendment rights. The decision was welcomed by free-speech groups.

In dissent, Justice Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. said the act "was enacted not to suppress speech, but to prevent horrific acts of animal cruelty."

Animal cruelty activists hope Congress will pass a more narrowly-defined law forbidding the most objectionable works.

In the UK, such material is considered obscene; its production may also result in charges for cruelty and torture of animals.


Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

This is the right decision. Law was way, way, way too broad. They'll probably have to go through this at least twice more before they get it right.

Nor do I support the prohibition of possession (and, perhaps, of the non-commercial distribution—which was not true in this case) of such materials, as I do not support many similar prohibitions.

Of course, nor do I support the crush acts themselves. Maiming or killing animals with blunt or crushing force should be illegal everywhere. (Or is there a legitimate reason such language is not appropriate?)

Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

At least now it'll be easier to track down the people involved in this kind of stuff. I mean, allowing it to be legal is probably going to make dog fighters overconfident and sell their videos more openly. Fighting dogs is still illegal. If they want to video tape themselves doing illegal activities, it's their jail sentence.

Though it might also be the wording of the law itself. I mean, what is cruel and to what animals? Is every nature documentary video taper a criminal because they just video tape as a gazelle gets taken down by a lion? What about video of dog fights that are used in such a way to demote the act itself?

In this case I think the animal abuse people should let this one go. If a video of disgusting events are seen by the public, it'll probably be more positive to their causes then anything.

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GreenReaper (Laurence Parry)read storiescontact (login required)

a developer, editor and Kai Norn from London, United Kingdom, interested in wikis and computers

Small fuzzy creature who likes cheese & carrots. Founder of WikiFur, lead admin of Inkbunny, and Editor-in-Chief of Flayrah.