Never did I think I’d see the day I found myself agreeing with–and actually applauding–Justice Samuel A. Alito.
But alas that day has come, as he was the lone Supreme Court Justice who dissented against the Court’s early morning decision to reverse a federal law prohibiting videos showing the torture and death of animals.
THE COURT’S DECISION
Here’s the deal, in a nauseatingly overwhelming decision, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 against the law criminalizing the making, selling or possession of videos depicting animal cruelty for commercial gain. The Court’s reasoning: they said the federal law was “substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment.” Really, Supreme Court…really?!
Believe me, I’m a staunch supporter of the First Amendment. In fact, I’m not naïve and understand it’s precisely what enables me to share this opinion with you right now. And it’s precisely the reason I’m allowed to blast the Supreme Court for their despicable decision, which I am most certainly about to do.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Apparently one of the major hiccups of the law was the fear some had that hunting videos and/or images could unjustly be banned because of it. Interesting.
Let’s not kid ourselves here. The kind of videos this law prohibits are those that highlight vicious dogfighting footage and “crush” videos. For those not familiar with the term, crush videos are sexual fetish videos depicting women crushing animals to death with stilettos or their bare feet. Oh yes, how unjust to criminalize these masterful works of art.
The law was passed in 1999 in an attempt to curb animal cruelty. The government then argued that showing animals being “intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed” was so explicit — it should be banned. Kind of hard to argue with that one.
FIRST AMENDMENT CRIES
In one of the most vomit-inducing quotes I read involving today’s decision, lawyers over at Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression previously argued the government was wrong in its belief that animal cruelty should qualify as an exception to First Amendment protection, similar to that which is awarded child pornography: “Morals, values, religious beliefs, customs and laws compel adult Americans to provide far greater protection to children than they do to animals or even other adults.”
Now although some of you may agree with the lawyers’ opinion, I have major issues with its seeming arrogance. In no way does the argument justify removing any of the already-pathetically weak laws “protecting animals” currently in existence. There’s nothing wrong with wanting humans and animals to be equally protected. There’s no reason strength in protection for one, needs to result in weakened protection for the other.
With this ruling, the Supreme Court is opening the door for animal abusers on a commercial level. We’re talking about people who profit from making videos that show animals mercilessly ripping each other apart, or those that play into some humans’ twisted sexual fantasies involving the violent death of animals. I just don’t see how protecting hunting videos outweighs deterring such heinous acts of cruelty and violence.
And neither does Justice Alito who disagreed with striking down “in its entirety a valuable statute that was enacted not to suppress speech, but to prevent horrific acts of animal cruelty — and in particular, the creation and commercial exploitation of ‘crush videos,’ a form of depraved entertainment that has no social value.”
As much as I believe in our freedom of speech, I believe it’s our obligation to protect animals from abuse, torture and objectification. The Supreme Court’s decision today has made this feat that much more difficult.
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photo credit: thanks to protographer23 via flickr for the amazing pic