Disgusting and IllegalPosted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Staff Attorney on August 6th, 2010
Earlier this week the New York Times published an editorial called "Disgusting but Not Illegal," which defends animal crush videos as free speech.
Not only does the Times’ editorial ignore the reality of these videos, but it also misreads the text of the new bill to ban their sale and distribution.
The Times is right to point out that the obscenity exception to the First Amendment applies only to prurient or sexual materials. But animal crush videos do appeal to the prurient interest in sex: the sadistic desire to observe animals being tortured and the masochistic desire to fantasize oneself as an animal being crushed by a dominatrix.
In theory, one could have a non-sexual crush video (e.g., one without the sado-masochistic overtones). But the way the new bill defines crush video requires obscenity: “[T]he term ‘animal crush video’ means any obscene photograph, motion-picture film, video recording, or electronic image that depicts actual conduct in which one or more living animals is intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, or impaled . . . .’’
The only videos whose sale and distribution are criminalized by the new bill are those that are obscene, and therefore already unprotected by the First Amendment.