First Amendment rights and the pursuit of animal rights

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Many decades have intervened since my First Amendment rights were trampled by the FBI. The year was 1970 and Richard Nixon was appearing at the Fort Wayne (IN) War Memorial Coliseum. A group of us from a small, nearby college with a long history of peace activism decided to take in the spectacle; I suppose our clothes and hair tipped off The Man that we weren’t enthusiastic supporters of the Viet Nam war. We were detained, our tickets confiscated “for verification” and never returned.

We were angry. We felt powerless. We returned to school and told our story. It found its way into the Peace Studies bulletin, and that was the end of it. Today, older and wiser and again confronted with a suspected infringement upon First Amendment rights, I knew exactly what to do: Contact the American Civil Liberties Union.   Continue reading

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New York Ag-Gag Bill Dies

Douglas Doneson

The New York “ag-gag” bill S 5172, designed to deter meth addicts from stealing anhydrous ammonia overdosed on reason and died today on the senate floor.  Maybe the New York state representatives realized that the majority of meth labs in this country have been outsourced to Mexico.

Or maybe they realized that anhydrous ammonia is primarily used for plant/ soil fertilization and since factory farmed animals are not pasture raised, animal farmers probably don’t have that much NH3 lying around anymore.  Continue reading

New York Ag-Gag Legislation

Douglas Doneson

Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, and most recently New York have introduced bills designed to suppress undercover photojournalism which exposes food safety issues, criminal activity, and the abuses that occur behind the closed doors of the animal agribusiness. Although these bills have slightly different language, each one, if passed would criminalize the act of taking a photograph or videotaping farmed animal facilities without the written consent of the owner.

The justification for New York’s “ag-gag” bill:  Continue reading

Graphic Content

Will Sheehan

Public perception has always played a significant role in the battle for animal rights. Newspapers, publishing houses and television have traditionally served as facilitators–and occasionally unwitting allies–of the movement. Due to the persuasiveness of visual aids, it is clear that the future battleground for the public relations struggle will take place on Youtube and other online media sources. These websites have revolutionized anti-cruelty documentation through the distribution of inexpensive, visceral and uncensored viral videos depicting the inhumane treatment of animals. This has elevated animal advocacy to an unprecedented level.

Continue reading

The Agribusiness Lobby Wins Again

Jacqueline McMahon

Well, there go the rights of farmed animals and whistleblowers in Iowa.  On March 17, 2011, the Republican-dominated Iowa House of Representative voted 65-27 to approve a bill criminalizing secretly recording factory farm practices.  Under the bill, House File 589 § 9, drolly named “Animal Facility Interference,” any person who produces, possesses or distributes an audio or visual recording of an animal facility without the consent of the owner is guilty of either a class D felony or aggravated misdemeanor.  The bill still has to pass through the Democrat-controlled Senate before officially becoming Iowa law, but with similar proposals popping up in other states including Florida, the idea of prohibiting these exposé recordings is picking up steam. Continue reading

Stevens Update — The Content-Based Restriction Debate Continues to Swirl

David Cassuto


Congress has introduced a new bill aimed at suppressing crush videos.  In the meantime, the Court will review another content-based law  — this one aimed at restricting violent video game sales to children.  One wonders how the Stevens precedent will figure into deciding whether this California law is constitutional.  More soon.

U.S. v. Stevens, The Post-Mortem

David Cassuto

There’s little good here.  In Stevens, the Supreme Court struck down a law that aimed at and succeeded in curbing the market for crush videos and other animal mutilation.  To be fair, the law was seriously flawed.  But the Court’s analysis is worse.  However, the holding could have been worse still, so I am at least a little relieved as well as disappointed.

18 U.S.C. s. 48 banned depictions of cruelty “in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed” if that conduct violates federal or state law “where the creation, sale, or possession takes place.”  It exempted depictions possessing “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value.” 

Mr. Stevens operated a website called “Dogs of Velvet and Steel.”   He marketed videos of dog fighting, of dogs attacking pigs, and other similar works.  One would be hard pressed to find any redeeming social value to his wares and the Court makes no attempt to do so.  In fact it spends very little time analyzing the law as it relates to Mr. Stevens.   It instead focuses on the law’s potential applications to other cases not currently before it.  As a result, the opinion runs far into the weeds.   Continue reading