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Supreme Court to Hear Animal Cruelty Case

Supreme Court to Hear Animal Cruelty Case

Here is a question for you to think about. Does the prosecution of a filmmaker violate his First Amendment rights of free speech, if the subject of his documentaries depicts animal cruelty?

This question is paraphrased a bit, but it is the issue that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear later this year in a controversial case of animal cruelty that was overturned by a Philadelphia appeals court. Their answer will have a great impact on the future welfare of animals.

The case began when a filmmaker named Robert Stevens sold videos of dog fights to federal agents in 2004. Stevens owns a business called Dogs of Velvet and Steel and is a published author and documentary filmmaker. His lawyers claim he sells “informative materials about dog handling and equipment for pit bulls.”

He has produced three films. His first is called “Catch Dogs and Country Living” which is advertised as a training film for hunting dogs. It shows humans being cruel to animals in the name of training while Stevens narrates about proper techniques. One particularly gruesome scene depicts a pit bull attacking the jaw of a domestic farm pig.

The second and third films are titled, “Pick-A-Winna: A Pit Bull Documentary” and “Japan Pit Fights.” Both claim to be historical documentaries about pit bull dogs. The video says it shows, “What made our breed courageous and the intelligent breed that it is.” The films are filled with graphic dog-fighting scenes; enough violence that authorities decided to arrest Stevens.

The arrest was made using a law passed in 1999 called the Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act. It banned the creation, sale or possession of material depicting animal cruelty. This successful Act has helped authorities crack down on dog-fighting rings. And it also helped to almost completely wipe out the horrific industry of “animal crush videos.” The 1999 Act has saved the lives of thousands of pets.

A federal jury convicted Stevens of violations of the Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act in 2005. But late last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that the law was unconstitutional. They agreed the case against Robert Stevens obstructed his First Amendment Rights of free speech.

Thankfully, the Solicitor General would not let this case go and he and the Humane Society of the United States petitioned to have the U.S. Supreme Court review it. It is rare that a case on animal cruelty is heard, but the highest court in the country agreed last week to examine the overturned case.

Stevens’ lawyers say that his videos should have the same First Amendment test and protection that pornography has. But animal welfare groups protest that torturing, maiming and killing innocent animals in the name of entertainment or “instructional material” were not the intent of the free speech amendment.

Furthermore, to point out that Robert Stevens’ documentary business was a ruse for animal cruelty videos, reports show that he regularly advertised his material in an underground magazine known for promoting dog-fighting called the Sporting Dog Journal.

Stevens’ case will be heard this fall and it is sincerely hoped the Supreme Court will return his conviction and stop his “documentary” business permanently.

 

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88 comments

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10:18PM PST on Jan 13, 2011

Moscow please
Send your experts to Tehran to find the fact about the miserable tiger. Please save the female one who is in the Iranian zoo as soon as possible.

10:17PM PST on Jan 13, 2011

Russia plese Moscow pleae
Find the real reason for the death of your Siberian Tiger in Tehran. They are deceiving people. Save the female tiger. I beg you. Hurry up please.

10:14PM PST on Jan 13, 2011

Russia please Russia please
search about the truth about the death of your Siberian tiger in Tehran, iran. They are deceiving people. Find the fact about it. I beg you.

10:11PM PST on Jan 13, 2011

Please inform Russia of what is going on about the tigers in Eram zoo in Tehran, Iran.

10:09PM PST on Jan 13, 2011

Damnn to those who cause the Siberian Tiger die in the Iranian zoo.

10:03PM PST on Jan 13, 2011

All animal communities must blame iranian managers for killing the Siberian tiger in Eram zoo in Tehran.

10:00PM PST on Jan 13, 2011

Do you know that a very precious Siberian Tiger died in an Iranian zoo as the result of negligence and irresponsibility of the manager of the zoo and the heads of the environmental care organiztion? please inform all who can do something in this respect.

5:58PM PDT on May 15, 2009

here we go again anytime you want to do something immorale just stand on the 1st amendment,we are really getting carried away with it,it was never set up for the abuse its taking.

8:39AM PDT on May 11, 2009

I agree with Frances S. This man was profiting from the sale of these videos, not gathering evidence for a trial.

10:30PM PDT on May 10, 2009

I pray to God that they can not use the First Amendment in order to promote these disgusting videos and more cruelty to defenseless animals!!

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Colleen H. Colleen H. is an Online Campaigner with Care2 and a recent transplant to San Francisco from the East... more
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