Supreme Court Rules Free Speech Trumps Animal Cruelty Videos

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional a federal law banning the "commercial creation, sale, or possession of certain depictions of animal cruelty." The court, on an 8-1 vote April 20, declared the federal law too broad and therefore invalid under the free speech amendment.

The law, enacted in 1999, was designed to stop the sales of "crush videos" depicting the torture and intentional killing of animals. These videos often show women in heels crushing or killing small animals.

The law only addresses the portrayals of the acts. Other state statutes, not affected by the Supreme Court's ruling, criminalize animal cruelty. All 50 states have such laws in place.

The case before the court dealt with a man indicted for selling videos of dogfights. He was convicted after moving to dismiss the case on free-speech grounds. The Supreme Court upheld a ruling by the Third District court of appeals that vacated the conviction. Only Justice Samuel Alito dissented in the decision.

"The Court strikes down in its entirety a valuable statute, 18 U. S. C. §48, that was enacted not to suppress speech, but to prevent horrific acts of animal cruelty," wrote Alito in his dissent, "in particular, the creation and commercial exploitation of 'crush videos,' a form of depraved entertainment that has no social value."

Read the ruling.

About the Author

Tracy Gantz

Tracy Gantz is a freelance writer based in Southern California. She is the Southern California correspondent for The Blood-Horse and a regular contributor to Paint Horse Journal, Paint Racing News, and Appaloosa Journal.

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