U.S. v. Stevens Revisited

David Cassuto

The Shameless Self Promotion Desk is back!  The most recent issue of the Journal of Animal Ethics has a piece by me offering some thoughts about U.S. v. Stevens.  It’s titled: “United States v. Stevens: Win, Loss or Draw for Animals?”  You can download it here.  The abstract follows below:

Robert J. Stevens, proprietor of “Dogs of Velvet and Steel,” was indicted for marketing dog-fighting videos in violation of 18 U.S.C.§48, a law criminalizing visual or auditory depictions of animals being “intentionally mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed” if   Continue reading

Which Animals Matter (yet again)?

Seth Victor

To paraphrase the oft quoted excerpt from Animal Farm, all cute and fuzzy animals are equal, but domesticated cute and fuzzy animals are more equal than others. This sentiment was yet again demonstrated over the last week. In one corner, we have human pets, who are mercilessly being tortured for the pleasure of a rather repugnant fetish in crush videos. After U.S. v. Stevens struck down a law aimed a regulating depictions of cruelty, Congress quickly passed a narrower bill that was signed into law by President Obama on Friday. As reported by ALDF, “the more narrowly written law that emerged makes it a crime to sell or distribute videos showing animals being intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury. It exempts depictions of veterinary and husbandry practices, the slaughter of animals for food, as well as depictions of hunting, trapping or fishing.” Hopefully the narrower scope will survive the inevitable legal challenges.

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A Battle Won, Perhaps

Gillian Lyons

Following up on last week’s post, on Monday, September 27th Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced legislation, an amendment to H.R. 5566, which will prohibit the sale of crush videos, meaning any film, video, or recording that depicts live animals being crushed, drowned, suffocated or impaled in a manner that would violate a criminal prohibition under Federal or State law. The good news is that a day later, on September 28th, this legislation was met with unanimous approval by the entire Senate.  While the legislation will now need to be reapproved by the House (which is very likely, due to the original H.R. 5566’s 416 Ayes to 3 Nays), this is a big step in infusing strength back into 18 U.S.C. § 48 after the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Stevens.  Continue reading

Reconsidering Crush Videos

Gillian Lyons

After the Supreme Court struck down 18 U.S.C. § 48 in United States v. Stevens for having too broad a focus (click here for Professor Cassuto’s post-mortem of that decision), there was a general feeling of dismay in the animal law community due, in part, to the fact that the law strove to make the sale of crush videos illegal.

However, in response to the Court’s decision, Congress acted quickly and in June 2010 H.R. 5566: Prevention of Interstate Commerce in Animal Crush Videos Act of 2010 was introduced.  H.R. 5566 amends 18 U.S.C. § 48 to give the Act a narrower focus: prohibiting the sale of crush videos, meaning any film, video, or recording that depicts live animals being crushed, drowned, suffocated or impaled in a manner that would violate a criminal prohibition under Federal or State law. The bill was resoundingly approved with 416 Ayes and 3 Nays.           Continue reading

Some More Cool Animal Law CLE

David Cassuto

From the email:

The DePaul Center for Animal Law cordially invites you and your colleagues to join us for this year’s symposium, “Revisiting the Line between Free Speech and Obscenity: U.S. v. Stevens and Its Impact on Animal Welfare”. The symposium will take place at the DePaul College of Law on Thursday, September 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The symposium will evaluate the constitutional issues raised in Stevens, as well as draw attention to the destructive influence of dog fighting on our local community. Panelists include Bob Corn-Revere, co-counsel for defendant Robert Stevens, Randall Lockwood, PhD, Senior Vice-President for Anti-Cruelty Initiatives and Legislative Services for the ASPCA and internationally renowned bioethicist, author and veterinarian, Dr. Michael W. Fox.

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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.

Lust

Seth Victor

In college I learned a song. The lyrics of that song are largely unpublishable, but I will share the refrain, which goes, “Bestiality’s best boys, Bestiality’s best (something unmentionable about a wallaby)!” It was sung in jest, by both guys and gals, and the point was (I hope) to horrify and not to instruct. I admit I laughed and sang along. A sense of humor goes a long way in keeping ones sanity, and I know the song was only part of a long and raunchy college tradition. Now that I recall those days of endless road trips, listening to my colleagues tone deaf voices proclaim what wonderful sexual acts would befall a myriad of animals, I wonder what sketchy part of my university’s tradition required immortalization in such verse.

Sex is still taboo in our society, and more risqué sexual proclivities are still in the closet, so to speak, though they are not as much of a sub-culture as some people think. Animal sex, with other animals, is not taboo. From dogs in the park to the Discovery Channel, you can watch animal porn to your heart’s content. But is it porn? That depends on the viewer. Porn is sexually stimulating, erotic, and is viewed for some sexual goal. If you tune in to the mating habits of the Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock (I couldn’t make that up) to further your understanding of genetic diversity, you’re a scientist. If your heart starts racing, be careful. I’m being a bit ridiculous, but when you consider that U.S. v. Stevens refuses to apply the same exemptions to the First Amendment that were extended to depictions of child pornography in U.S. v. Williams, while in the same stroke giving the go-ahead for crush videos, it isn’t absurd to wonder where we drawn the line when it comes to human with animal sex acts.                 Continue reading