I disgustingly read this on the Animal Law Coalition website.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal appeals court, sided in favor of animal cruelty in U.S.C 48. This is a really unfortunate decision.
Here's a little background:
A man named Robert Stevens, a resident of Virginia, was convicted of knowingly selling depictions of animal cruelty. Stevens was advertising the sale of videos in a magazine called the Sporting Dog Journal -- an underground publication featuring articles about dog fighting. Law enforcement officers bought a few videos that showed old footage of organized dog fights (circa the 1960s and 70s) as well as more recent footage of recent dog fights in Japan. A separate video showed footage and detailed how to train dogs for hunting wild boars. The videos contained narration and commentar by Stevens as well as literature that was written by Stevens. As a result of the videos, law officers got a search warrant and executed the warrent -- finding more copies of the videos and other dogfighting merchandise.
The judges sided with Stevens, citing that the Stevens was covered under the 1st Amendment right to free speech. The reasons were as follows:
1) On balance, animal rights do not supersede fundamental human rights. While the government can and does protect animals from acts of cruelty, to make possession of films depicting this abuse would infringe on rights to free speech.
2) The Supreme Court rarely finds such an interest for content based restrictions. When it is done, it is done so because it related to the well-being of human beings, not animals. The example given was child pornography, where materials produced would have a lasting and long-term effect on the child while animals will not continue to suffer after the abuse has taken place.
3) The court decided that the law was constitutionally overbroad. While the significant government interest was described as being to "prevent cruelty to animals that state and federal statutes under-enforce." This makes sense, but the court deemed that it was overbroad because "If a person hunts or fishes out of season, and films the activity and sells it to an out-of-state party, it would appear the statute has been violated. Similarly, the same person could be prosecuted for selling a film which contains a depiction of bulfighitng in Spain if bullfighting is illegal in the state in which the person sells the film."
You can read the rest over at the Animal Law Coalition.
Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I generally side with more rights under the Constitution, vs fewer rights. But this one is pretty amazing to me. So someone can actually host a dog-fight. Film the adventures. Then sell the videos to prove that it happened and that they were there and get off scott free. This appears to me to be the equivelent of me shooting someone in a country where killing wasn't illegal, and recording the footage of the man dying, and then selling the videos. How did we uphold that THIS is ok?
To put it another way, under the state law of Ohio, a person could be arrested for owning more than one 'pit bull' -- even without the city having to prove the dogs are dangerous or that the dog is actually a "pit bull' at all. In many Cincinnati, they could be jailed for owning a pit bull at all. However, they could host dog fights, film the footage, and sell the footage of the dogs fighting -- now openly since it's been upheld in court - without punishment.
It appears that dog fighters now have more rights under the Constitution than I do in a lot of places. That's pretty messed up. As a general rule, if something is deemed a felony in all 50 states, making a profit off of videos depicting it should be illegal also.