Sunday, April 25, 2010

Supreme Court Gets It (Very) Wrong

On April 20, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court--by an 8-1 vote--overturned a federal statute that was designed to stop the marketing and sale of graphic videos depicting horrific scenes of animal abuse. In so doing, the court overturned the conviction of one Robert Stevens, who sold these materials through his "business". He claimed to be an author and journalist, and denied ever promoting dogfighting, which is certainly interesting in light of the fact that he advertised his grotesque tapes in an underground periodical dedicated to illegal dogfighting.
Justice Roberts sought to cloak the majority's ruling in the guise of protecting "free speech", and claimed that the law was too broad. According to, during oral arguments last October "the justices offered a number of wide-ranging hypotheticals over what the law could forbid, including: fox hunts, pate de foie gras from geese, cockfighting, bullfighting, shooting deer out of season, even Roman gladiator battles." Actually, forbidding any or all of these things sounds great to me!
Only Justice Samuel Alito demonstrated wisdom and compassion. In his dissent, he turned the spotlight on "crush" videos--in which women (faces hidden) in spiked-heel shoes are shown brutally stomping small animals, such as rabbits, to death. Justice Alito noted that the animals killed in these videos are "living creatures that experience excrutiating pain". Likewise, he observed that the suffering experienced by dogs horrifically maimed in the dogfighting videos "lasts for years, rather than minutes".
Albert Scweitzer maintained "we need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also".
Rather than uphold the slow progress made by the humane community, this court appears ready to protect brutality and exploitation; the "freedom" to film and market unspeakably violent acts. One is left to wonder if this court might consider striking down the statutes banning child pornography if a convincing argument can be made that the laws are somehow "interfering" with the commerce/business of the video traffickers?

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