Speak Out Against “Crush Videos” – Support HR 5092!

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on April 29, 2010

The Supreme Court issued a decision on April 20, 2010
declaring a federal law against the creation, sale or possession of
depictions of animal cruelty for commercial gain to be "substantially
overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment." In June
2009, ALDF filed an amicus curiae brief in this
case, United States v. Stevens, and ALDF attorneys
continue to be active
on this legislative issue.  

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, new federal legislation has
been introduced by Representative Elton Gallegly (R-CA) that will prohibit the sale,
or offering for sale, of animal crush videos in interstate or foreign
commerce. 

"Crush videos" cater to sexual fetishists who want to watch and hear
animals being crushed to death – usually by women wearing spiked heels.
The clandestine and anonymous nature of their filming, along with
statutes of limitations, severely limits law enforcement’s ability to
pursue the individuals engaging in these heinous criminal cruelties at
the level of conduct. A law targeting the market for these abhorrent
depictions gives law enforcement a much-needed tool for stemming the
proliferation of these videos. 

What You Can Do

Please send an email to your representatives in Washington through ALDF’s website
— encourage them to support HR 5092 and thank those who are already cosponsoring
the bill. Let them know that as a voting constituent, you expect and
appreciate that they understand the gravity of animal cruelty issues in
our society.

List of representatives currently cosponsoring HR 5092
Follow the bill’s progress

Background
Federal law 18 U.S.C. §48 was signed by President Clinton on December 9, 1999. This law addressed depictions of criminal animal abuse being marketed for commercial gain.  

A case charged under 18 U.S.C. §48 went to trial for the first time in 2005.  In the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, on January 13, 2005, a jury convicted Robert J. Stevens on three counts of knowingly selling depictions of animal cruelty for the purpose of commercial gain. A 2004 federal investigation had revealed Stevens’ involvement in the production and distribution of videos that depicted dogfighting and related practices, and on March 2, 2004, a grand jury had indicted him under 18 U.S.C. §48. 

On appeal, the Third Judicial Circuit vacated Mr. Stevens’ conviction, stating in their July 2008 opinion that “18 U.S.C. § 48 is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.” In December 2008, the Solicitor General’s office petitioned the Supreme Court to review the Third Circuit’s opinion, observing that, “Because the court of appeals’ decision nullifies an important Act of Congress designed to assist the States in addressing the serious nationwide problem of animal cruelty, review by this Court is warranted.” The Supreme Court agreed to consider the issue, and oral arguments were heard on October 6, 2009.