A bill to counter the Supreme Court’s recent decision that overturned a ban on the sale of gruesome animal “crush” videos is gaining bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Supreme Court justices on April 20 ruled
that a federal law prohibiting the sale of these graphic animal cruelty videos was “substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment.”
Free speech advocates hailed the High Court’s 8-1 ruling; animal protection groups expressed outrage and disappointment.
The day after the court’s decision, Representatives Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), James Moran (D-Va.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced a new and narrowly-crafted bill to stop the sale of these videos, which depict the intentional crushing, burning, drowning and impaling of puppies, kittens and other animals. The Humane Society of the United States
(HSUS) said crush videos, which often feature women wearing high heel stiletto shoes, are made for the “sexual titillation” of viewers.
“The Supreme Court made it clear that if we structured a bill that targeted crush videos it would probably pass their muster,” Tom Pfeifer, press secretary for Representative Gallegly, told ConsumerAffairs.com this week. “This bill specifically states we’re targeting animal crush videos and defines them. This is a much more narrowly-focused bill and it makes it clear what we’re targeting.”
Pfeifer said the bill had 109 co-sponsors as of Wednesday. “The Congressman is working hard to increase that number and working with the judiciary Committee to schedule a hearing.”
Representative Gallegly, who introduced the 1999 “Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act” that is at the heart of the court’s decision, emphasized this issue isn’t about First Amendments rights.
“It is a law enforcement issue,” he said. “Ted Bundy and Ted Kaczynski tortured or killed animals before killing people. The FBI, U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice consider animal cruelty to be one of the early warning signs of potential violence by youths.
“This law is one step toward ending this cycle of violence,” he added.
Co-sponsors of the new bill said the measure is designed to prevent anyone from profiting off the sale of videos that depict heinous acts of animal cruelty.
“Animal cruelty is not something to celebrate and circulate online,” said Representative Blumenauer, an original co-sponsor of the 1999 bill and Animal Protection Caucus member. “On the heels of (the) Supreme Court decision, we’re taking immediate and bipartisan action to protect animals without infringing on the right to free speech. The bottom line is that we need to protect animals from being tortured or killed in a manner that is criminal or morally reprehensible. No one should be allowed to profit from so-called crush videos or other images of animal cruelty.”
Representative Moran called the Supreme Court’s decision a “blow” to efforts to stop animal cruelty and a victory for those whose bank accounts are padded from the sale of videos that glorify the killing of defenseless animals.
“I refuse to stand by while people profit from the mutilation and torture of helpless puppies, kittens and other animals,” he said. “For 10 years, federal law had worked to dramatically reduce the proliferation of these videos. Now, Congress must act to restore these commonsense protections against animal cruelty.”
Pet owners who’d like to see the new measure passed should contact their Congressional representatives
and urge them to co-sponsor the bill, Pfeifer said.