A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Apr 21, 2010

What to with the US Supreme Court Animal Cruelty decision

The Supreme Court in U.S. v. Stevens struck down a federal statute that would criminalize certain depictions of animal cruelty. The genesis of this law was to prevent the distribution of crush videos, a genre of film where women in sexy shoes and lingerie stomp, crush and kill a small animal. The reason, very generally stated, was the law was written in such a way that it was too broad and could capture conduct either legal or unintended. Additionally, there is always scrutiny where a perceived encroachment upon first amendment rights occurs with the additional imposition of criminal liability resulting from the behavior.

spcaLA was involved in crush video cases, and I can tell you, the evidence was very difficult for me to watch. I fear that this decision will send the message that one can produce these and other horrendous animal snuff films at a substantial profit. Whether I agree or not with the decision, (I have argued both sides at various forums) I find it important that the Supreme Court is vigilant in guarding against any erosion of our first amendment rights.

Rather than whine about a “set back”, blog about the disappointment and tweet about “bad” judges let us draft a federal statute that will pass constitutional muster, using the guidelines provided by this decision. If our federal lawmakers don’t wish to do so – let us pass laws state by state similar to California Civil Code 3505, which addresses the showing of programs involving animal cruelty, to force those who would like to engage in such behavior to litigate in all fifty states. Please also remember, that in all states, catching the act of cruelty during filming is still a crime.

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