Fluffy creatures pay the price

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By Megan Evans / Staff Writer

By Megan Evans / Staff Writer

Stomping kitties isn’t nice. In 1999 Congress passed a law in response to “crush videos.”

These videos usually highlighted a woman in heels stepping on a small animal and crushing it to death.

Animal cruelty videos came to a halt once that law was passed.  But in 2004, Robert Stevens, a self-described dog trainer, author, and documentarian was prosecuted for the production and distribution of what he called an educational film.

Stevens claimed that his videos provided viewers with the “right” and “wrong” ways to train pit bulls. He also suggested that since the law against the broadcasting of animal cruelty is so vague, depictions of bullfighting in Spain and hunting out of season may also be deemed illegal.

Even though Stevens claimed these videos were educational, there were two scenes that depicted animal cruelty. One, of a pit bull attacking a pig, and another of two pit bulls fighting each other.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled against Stevens argument, and the jury sentenced him to 37 months in prison. After the courts hearing, there was a surge of crush videos posted on the internet.

Many people may think that animal cruelty videos are worthy of being protected by the first amendment, but these people are mistaken. The first amendment protects the freedom of speech, freedom of press and so on.

There are certain exceptions when it comes to protecting freedom of speech, such as child pornography and obscenity. Broadcasting animal cruelty should be one of them.

Sadly the law against animal cruelty is extremely vague. This means that a person can interpret the law loosely, looking at what the law says you can’t do, rather than what you can.

With the law that is in place today, people have to know what to do to avoid the risk of being prosecuted.

Many animal rights activists may agree that broadcasting animal cruelty, whether for commercial gain or pure entertainment, is outright disgusting, and they are right.

It must not be forgotten that animals are worthy of human care and kindness. They are capable of being loved and loving back.

According to the first ruling by the court: creating, selling, or possessing depictions of animal cruelty for commercial gain is criminal and joins the ranks of child pornography and obscenity.

Some may say that animal cruelty and sexually abused children are completely different matters, and they are right. When comparing a human being to an animal it is clear that the safety of a human life comes first.

But when all has been done to protect children from such tragic incidents, why can’t some effort be put into protecting the lives of animals as well.

After the first ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Stevens luck changed.

The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision. They decided that the videos were a means of free speech.

Not only did this decision change what can be perceived as free speech, but also put many other animals’ lives in jeopardy.

According to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, there is no compelling interest that is served by eliminating depictions of animal cruelty.  The court believed that regulating child pornography and obscenity was of core interest, and that such protection should not be extended to animals.

This ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals is sending the wrong message to the United States.  These videos will have a negative effect on the young children of our generation. They will not only conflict with what parents have taught their children about being nice to animals, but may also put ideas of animal cruelty in their heads. 

If it is decided that animal cruelty is first amendment worthy then the protection of the animals will be compromised, and their rights will be silenced.

Suggesting that creating and selling animal cruelty is in any way equal to child pornography or obscenity is dumb, but there should be a law in place that protects animals from this kind of traumatic experience.

The fate rests in the hands of the Supreme Court, who will hear both sides of the argument. On one hand there is the Third Circuit Court that is in favor of Stevens point of view. They believe that animals themselves do not suffer continuing harm by having their images out in the marketplace. The psychological aftermath is much different than that of a young child.

Animals may not suffer from having their images of cruelty broadcasted on television or on the internet, but they are psychologically damaged from the animal cruelty itself. 

To argue that these videos were not harmful to the animals involved is cruel and cold hearted. But the law must be changed. As of now, a person convicted of creating and selling animal cruelty for commercial gain can serve up to five years in prison, the same prosecution for creating and selling child pornography. 

Considering that child pornography and animal cruelty are two different issues, they should have two different punishments.

Although both of these crimes are unmistakably vindictive, animal cruelty should have a less extensive prison conviction, or a significantly larger fine.

Whatever the case, even though animal cruelty videos are sick and twisted, they are in no way equal to that of child pornography or obscenity, therefore should have a different punishment.

As of now all 50 states have laws in place against animal cruelty. Many people may argue that the images of animals being intentionally harmed or killed are tasteless and harmful. But something must be done to make these laws less vague and easier to interpret by the public.

With a different law easily understood by the citizens of the United States, less risks will be taken and fewer people will be prosecuted under false pretences.

Now is the time for animal rights activists to stand up for those who do not have a voice, and prove to the Supreme Court, as well as the American people, that animal cruelty is not worthy of being protected by the first amendment, and should have a clear and understandable law in place to protect all animals.

    Until the Supreme Court has reached a decision, millions of animal lovers will be anxiously awaiting their verdict.

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