Court goes wrong way on animal cruelty

Yesterday (April 19,2010), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on videos showing illegal or extreme violence against animals. Eight justices ruled that the existing law is too broad and therefore invalid under the First Amendment (freedom of speech). They cited concerns that the law could interfere with selling videos of legalized violence to animals, such as hunting and rodeos.

The law was enacted in 1999 to limit Internet sales of “crush videos,” which show women using their high-heeled shoes or bare feet to crush small animals to death. Justice Alito was the lone dissenter; he was concerned about the ruling opening a flood of  new crush videos, because it has “the practical effect of legalizing the sale of such videos.”

However, Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion left the door open for more specific legislation. Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif), author of the original 1999 bill,  said he will immediately introduce new legislation focused specifically on crush videos. He expects bipartisan support, and noted that the 1999 law passed both houses of Congress overwhelmingly, and worked quickly.

In the past year, “bipartisan” support for anything has become vanishingly rare, but hopefully both sides of the aisle will respond to the urgent need for action to prevent this awful cruelty.

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