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« Brittany and Rambo are set free - Brampton City Officials fail - and even more BSL problems in Ontario | Main | Bureaucrats, people who care, media driving agendas, & a need to end the "death to all pit bulls' thinking »

April 20, 2010

Comments

EmilyS

HSUS, CNN and all the others who are more responsible for the hysteria about dogfighting, and the resultant cruelty/BSL/etc, than all the dogfighters put together, would always be exempt from these laws. See, they are "educational" and "news" outlets. The news is always exempt from the depiction of cruelty.

It's the ACTS that should be prosecuted, not the depiction.

The promoters of this law weren't really going after dogfighters or "crush" film producers (there hasn't been a prosecution for "crush" films, which may not actually exist) anyway. They were going after Bob Stevens and others who write books and make movies about dogfighting.

If I want to watch a movie with dogs fighting, or of anything else (other than pornography), I should have that right. And the SC agrees

Brent

Emily,

You only have the "right" to watch a dog fighting video because the government allows you to..and certainly this wouldn't be an unprecedented case where something was ruled by the courts to be so obscene that it was not covered under the 1st Amendment.

If we look at the most recent example of something not protected under the first Amendment it is child pornography (NY v Ferber, 1982).

Basically, the government ruled that they had a compelling interest to prevent sexual exploitation of children, distribution of visual depictions of children engaged in sexual activity was intrisically related to the sexual abuse of children, that such videos had negligible artistic value and that they were "obscene".

Certainly all of these could be applied to videos depicting dog fighting. No?

While I realize in re-reading the case that the overall law itself was very broad and thus rightly struck down, I don't think you can very easily make a case that we NEED to uphold your right to watch dogfighting videos. In many ways I think it is strikingly similar to the child pornography issues.

And of course, the court could rule on the "educational" value of the material for use in news casts, etc. Certainly you don't see a lot of child porn on your nightly news.

EmilyS

no, dogfighting videos are not like pornography. Not even close.
Nazis marching in Skokie is not like pornography.
Tea partiers calling Obama a monkey? Not like pornography.
Jack Kevorkian advocating that he can help people commit suicide? also not like pornography.
How about: films of animals being slaughtered? also not like pornography, but under the law you want, could be banned, much to the consternation of AR activists.

The government gives me the right to free speech? wow.. Here I thought that I was endowed by my Creator with certain unalienable Rights.

Think more carefully about where you want to go with this.

Brent

Here's the reality Emily. There are no God-given rights. We live in societies -- and as such, we generally agree one what rights everyone has in our community. You change where you live, you change what "rights" you have given what that society has determine their rights to be based on their own social values. Unless you live on your very own island where you are the lone inhabitant, then that is how we live.

We, in this society, have determined that we feel like dog fighting and other forms of animal cruelty are illegal. We make many things illegal. You have lost your "right" to kill someone, drive too fast, or fight dogs.

The 1st Amendment was put in place to protect our rights to free speech so we could freely make political statements against the government -- something many places in Europe were preventing at the time. And the founders of our country felt that the ability to speak freely was essential to questioning the government and thus, democracy.

Child pornogoraphy was ruled not protected by the 1st Amendment because it was deemed as obscene, and having no value to society.

All of the elements you mention are POLITICAL free speech -- with the exception of the slaughter house example. I would defend on my grave everyone's ability to make whatever political statement they want to make --whether I agree with them or not. Hell, we give many of them their own TV shows. That's fine. That MUST be protected.

The actual act of slaughtering animals for food is not even against the law to DO, so why would we make watching videos of a legal activity illegal? That wouldn't make sense.

The reason why dog fighting is so closely like child pornography is that a) participating in sex with a child or fighting dogs are both felonies in this country, b) both involve victims that cannot be consentingly participating in said video (which separates out adult pornography), and c) neither can have a case rationally made for it being any type of political statement. None.

So yes, I agree that the law that was overturned IS overly broad and included way too much stuff. And I agree that we should fight to the death to protect our rights for expressing political discontent, you will never see me here fighting for people rights to watch videos of dogs mauling other dogs.

dan

I am a big proponent of the first amendment, but any so-called freedom that allows for the enjoyment of pain and cruelty inflicted on animals or people is no freedom.

Leaving aside the point that pornography is very much an individual and cultural issue, I find it ironic that there are people who are afraid of sex but don't mind inflicting (or allowing) pain to be inflicted on a less powerful animals or people. I see similarities between what I think some people believe is pornographic and cowards who "pit" two dogs against each other. I am not convinced that people who watch such video don't get some vicarious sexual pleasure out of it. And in case one doubts the existence of "crush" videos, here's a fashionably dressed woman using her high-heels to grind a kitten into the concrete that was circulating on the internet a couple years ago which enouraged more than one kock-off (WARNING - GRAPHIC) : http://english.sina.com/life/p/1/2006/0303/67958.html

Part of the problem with dog-fighting is that under-educated people who get their learning from the television seem to be under the impression that animals often fight to the death just because of who they are. It's all the rage on Animal Planet. But in reality, without an abusive human beating, starving, or otherwise manipulating a dog's behavior or environment, most fights are over territory or food, and are relatively short. Rank is established, and life goes on. Filmed dogfights are staged events and, much like rape of a young boy or girl it is abusive and violent behavior and has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power. Would this mean that it would be ok to distribute rape scenes which are, by any legal definition, not pornography? One can read transcripts of testimony and stories of those who fight dogs - these bear similarities to the satisfaction described by a rapist. Not sexual, but satisfying an urge for a violent overpowering of a weaker being.

One should also remember that we were subjects of the King and the Declaration of Independence preceeded our Bill of Rights, establishing that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". Even so, the only way we got those was by the death of people who gave up their lives to fight for that declaration. Without those protections the Bill of Rights is a meaningless document, since people who belong to the King (or another government) can't have rights independant of what the King (or the government) chooses to grant. Interestingly, as some of us have evolved we have expanded on that definition of "men", which really meant "white men", to include men and women of all races, and have moved toward a more humane society in which cruelty to animals is abhorrent to most people. Maybe one day we could all agree that a right to life and freedom from cruelty should apply to animals, at least enough so that it could trump one's thoughtless (sexual?) "viewing pleasure" of a violent, abusive, and sociopathic behavior. I doubt it, but perhaps.

Luisa

"If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a State has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch."

That's Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall delivering the opinion of the court in Stanley v. Georgia [ http://supreme.justia.com/us/394/557/case.html ].

To paraphrase Justice Anthony Kennedy in another court decision, either you truly support freedom of speech, or you support a government that seeks to control thought via censorship, book- and video-banning and other horrors.

"Obviously, a rigid, blinkered, absolutist world view is the easiest to keep hold of," said Salman Rushdie in a speech back in 1991 [ http://lassiegethelp.blogspot.com/2009/06/on-freedom-of-speech.html ]. But in a free country, neither the mullahs nor the dog lovers have any business telling me, sitting alone in my own house, what books I can read or what films I can watch. The First Amendment trumps absolutist world views.

In the Stevens case, the judges were not, in fact, trying to decide whether dogfighting videos should be a protected form of expression. They were considering whether the federal statute in question was too broad. If you have an Ernest Hemingway book that contains descriptions of bullfights, could you be arrested under this statute? If you possess a deer-hunting video in Washington, D.C., where hunting is illegal, could you wind up in prison? As a matter of fact: yes. So the statute was ruled unconstitutional.

Chief Justice John Roberts: "We read [the federal law] to create a criminal prohibition of alarming breadth." And that is why this crappy law was in violation of the First Amendment.

Bad Rap's legal eagle Christine Allen explains [ http://badrap-blog.blogspot.com/2009/10/dogfighting-videos-free-speech.html and http://badrap-blog.blogspot.com/2010/04/dogfighting-videos-free-speech-part-ii.html ] that hating animal abuse doesn't change the fact that the statute under consideration in this case was a ginormous piece of legislative suckage.

Want to criminalize dogfighting videos? Then tell your legislators to write, in Christine's words, "a better, more narrowly tailored law."

Brent

Luisa,

Again, I get that the Supreme Court made absolutely the right decision in this case. It was, as H. Houlihan said, a slam dunk.

But if a law was was created strictly to criminalize dogfighting videos, would that be something you supported? From your selection of quotes, I'm unsure. I don't know that I agree with Marshall's statement if it meant that someone, or something, else was signifanctly injured or killed expressly for your enjoyment.

EmilyS

There is only ONE class of videos that is exempted from the First Amendment: child pornography. The Court ruled, very rightly, that animal cruelty does not reach that level of heinousness. To rule otherwise would be more than a slippery slope. If animal cruelty videos are criminalized, why not videos of murder? or other acts of cruelty against humans? If videos are criminalized, why not photographs? Every history book would be criminalized in that case.

The Court also ruled, as Luisa notes, that the law was overly broad.

An 8-0 decision is a slamdunk. There really is no doubt.

Renee

EmilyS: It was a 8-1 decision, for the record, with the acknowledgment that the law was too broad and needed more tailored legislation. History books are educational, a video of a kitten being crushed by a high heel is not. The "slippery slope" is a good argument to avoid doing the right thing because a group of people are too lazy and don't care enough to try to figure out how to best improve quality of life.

Ted

"Here's the reality Emily. There are no God-given rights. We live in societies -- and as such, we generally agree one what rights everyone has in our community."

Brent: As an interpreter of the meaning and value of the American experiment, you are an outstanding animal welfare advocate.

The Founders understood that rights to free speech, to free assembly, to the enjoyment of a free press, to the pursuit of happiness (not happiness itself), to the right to arm oneself for personal and the common defense, and so on, do not originate from the whim of the collective. These rights are inalienable, i.e., they are indistinguishable and inseparable from the existence of each individual human (and, in my opinion, and as appropriate, every other sentient animal) and so cannot be voted away by 50.1% of the electorate. That is the very point of America, and of the Constitution and Bill of Rights that formed its foundation.

Does the nation often waver from this path and these ideals? Of course, as has never been more clear today than since slavery was enabled and tolerated. Does that invalidate the principals that make America unique in human history? Of course not.

As for crush videos, they are vile and reprehensible, and they are not free speech, in my opinion. But the law that banned them was even more vile because of its vagueness and disregard for the inalienable right it attempted to constrain. It was wiped away, with the support of every liberal justice, for exactly that reason. It can, and likely will, be replaced with narrow, reasoned legislation that respects freedom of expression.

Even of (especially of) repellant ideas expressed by (especially by) those we find repugnant.

Eden Springs

"I'm all for free speech, but I had really hoped the Courts would rule that dog fighting, and supreme acts of animal cruelty would fall under the same types of "exceptions" to free speech as child pornography."

This is a complete misunderstanding of what the Court actually ruled on, and misses why this ruling was so important for all Americans.

The court did NOT APPROVE of animal cruelty or dog fighting. To begin with, Mr. Stevens was selling videos of fights that either took place in foreign countries where dog fighting was not illegal, or of old (1950-1960's) vintage US dog fights, so the animal cruelty/fighting issue didn't really exist.

What the Court did was DISAPPROVE of the US Government stretching the definition of any law to force it to apply to a situation where no law currently does apply.

The stunning thing is that the Justices ruled 8 to 1--an almost unheard of majority on an issue, and even more astonishing given the grisly subject of this suit.

What the Court decided was this: the Government cannot pervert the Constitution to prosecute private citizens whose behavior, (although unsavory), is not illegal.

Had the Court ruled the other way, the publisher of every hunting, fishing and outdoor magazine/book/video would have been wide open for prosecution, and who knows what other issues would have arisen.

Again, while you and I might find what Mr. Stevens did distasteful, it is not currently illegal and he should not have been prosecuted in the first place. Had a law been passed to specifically make the selling/distribution of such material illegal, THEN he could be prosecuted, but what has kept this country great for over two centuries is that we don't jail people first, then write laws to make what they did illegal.

Everybody should be dancing in the street with joy over this decision because it protects ALL AMERICANS from being 'bootstrapped' into jail by the Government, and it encourages the passage of an appropriate law regarding Mr. Steven's videos in the future.

“If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.” --Noam Chomsky, 1992

Lindsay

I'm torn on this issue. Obviously I do not agree that it's right to be selling dog fighting videos. But on the other hand, video footage of animal cruelty in slaughterhouses really opened my eyes to some of the suffering of animals. I imagine that dog fighting videos would have the same effect on some people. Of course, we shouldn't need to see a video of something in order to know it's wrong, but that's often what it takes to get someone to change their mind and make a difference. Actually seeing something is more memorable than just hearing about something.

cyborgsuzy

Criminalizing dog fighting photos or videos wouldn't do much to address dog fighting itself. In fact, I feel that adding that kind of law (whether it was state, federal, or local), would distract from the crime of the act itself while simultaneously stifling efforts of animal advocates who are trying to educate the public using the same footage.

It's hard to legislate intent; and flat out impossible to legislate for common decency.

I also don't think there's enough in common between child pornography and dog fighting. Pornography has precedence of being heavily legislated already, and 'child pornography' (with some notable gray area) can be more clearly defined than "animal cruelty" or "animal exploitation". Child pornography has also (unlike dog fighting) never been legal in the past, so there's no "historical footage" analog.

cyborgsuzy

Hmm, let me correct that.

Obviously, by the current legal definition, certain types of child pornography (where "child" to us now <18 years old) were legal (or at least, not yet explicitly illegal) in the past - but not, I feel, in the same way that dog fighting was.

Doug

In america we have to take the good with the bad sometimes.

Case in Point the Muslims who live in New York who are calling for the deaths of the South Park Creators.

Another thing which people are missing out on is if ther are dog fighting videos out there and people are encourged to make these types of videos, it will make it easier to arrest people who participate in Dog Fighting.


Regardless if Videos are made illegal or not. Dog fighing is still going on. I would love to see every dog figt filmed so that when these thugs get caught there is real evidence that they were commiting a crime.

Increasing the fines and jail times for being around a dog fight could not hurt either.

Brent

For the record, the Muslims in New York calling for the deaths of the South Park Creators isn't protected under the Constitution either. They can be mad about it all they want...but it is illegal to intimidate and threaten to kill someone for exercising their right to free speech.

Tim F.

Not that I like dog fighting, but if videos of dogfighting were banned, then shouldn't various wildlife documentaries also be banned? Some of them are obviously staged, such as one on giant centipedes I recently saw on Youtube by National Geographic. I've also read that some scenarios in the Wild America series were staged as well, using captive bred animals, tethering prey animals in place, etc.

Doug

Well to be honest they did not come right out and call for their deaths...

Kind of like...if someone who is the creator of a popular show that rhymes with Touth Tark and is showing pictures of Muhamad then Islamic law says they should be put to death.

Brent

Tim, I wouldn't think that wildlife documentaries would fall under the same category. I don't think it would be hypocritical at all to want to have provisions that prevent showing a domesticated species that has been led to fight vs non-domesticated species just living life.

Michael

to Brent

Child pornography videos contribute to the continued abuse of the child. these videos are made so that the sick fucks that abuse children may relive the act, and thus the child can suffer not just from the original act but also the act of distributing the videos. dogs don't know nor care that videos of them are being sold and does not affect them after the fact when the act of fighting is over.

I am big on animal welfare not animal rights and there is a huge difference. animals are not people they don't need nor deserve rights. what they deserve is taken care of to the best of you ability and be provided good veterinary care good shelter good food, water, training and love.

I know it is hard to muster but there are people out there who do match dogs that think of it the same as hunting hogs with dogs. i have studied all aspects of this breed and i believe to truly understand the do that you have to look at there past which includes being a family pet and a fighting dog. that is just facts and what they were originally bred for. when bull baiting was outlawed those dogs were crossed with terriers of the time to be specifically used for dog on dog combat. were they used for other things i would think so but the express purpose of creating them was for fighting.. and again i have done research and even spoken with retired dogmen who keep one or two dogs and no longer participate in the act and i have seen how they care for these dogs i have seen them tear up and literally start sobbing when telling about a dog who they lost due to a match. dying in an actual match did not happen as often as many would have people believe. i would go as far to say that dogs used for hog hunting suffer a much worse fate. i talked to one hunter who said he loses roughly 5 dogs a year hunting with them.


So these videos of alleged abuse do fall under the first amendment. i am sure you have seen abused dogs before as have I and many suffer the same characteristics. they are extremely wary of people, very skidish, hand shy , and fearful.the APBT i have seen suffered from none of this, and did not show any signs of being abused in fact they were extremely friendly, outgoing, and playful, and at times down right giddy to be with there owners and others. many dogmen actually do consider dog fighting to be cruel if breeds who were not created for it are involved. they never take a say golden retriever and put a match dog on them because the retriever is not bred or built for that.

you know as well as i do the media blows things out of proportion and down right lies. they have created along with the HSUS a self made prophecy. there was never any such thing as bait dogs and literally not be found in any of the literature involving these dogs. they were not starved, beaten, or forced to fight. they were bred for it and i will say that man definitely overstepped, and should not have ever created dogs for the sole purpose of fighting. but the dogs involved were never forced. you truly can not force a dog to do anything. when a dog does no longer want to do the activity they are involved they will either avoid it by running away or just stop. if you took any other breed and tried to get them to fight you might succeed for a few minutes but eventually the dog who is getting the worst will flee or quit.

if you study the Cajun rules. you will see they were designed to give the dog as much choice as possible to not fight if they did not want to continue. they were literally designed so that the matches would end as quick as possible and inflict the least amount of damage possible to the dog who showed signs of avoidance behaviour. in the rules they have what is called a scratch. this starts when one dog decides he wants to avoid anymore contact by turning head and shoulders away from the opponent at this point they are seperated taken to corners and the dog who seemed to not want to be there had do go back to the other dog and take hold. if he hesitated even for one second it was over

The media and HSUS created the monsters who later got involved by lying and making up stories on how dogs were fought and supposedly trained. what this did was get young inexperienced easily influenced people to do the things that were described by the media and HSUS. like i said making there prophecy come true by advertising lies.

Prior to 1976 matching dogs was a misdemeanor just a low fine and a slap on the wrist. it was widely accepted or ignored, and due to that most of the men involved were working class family men, who had respectable jobs and were even respected among the community. there were literally doctors lawyers judges, police officers, priests, construction workers, veteranerians , vet technitions, teachers involved. these people were not what i would call hardened criminals. were there some hardened criminals involved of course but there are criminals in all other facets of life also there are criminals who are all involved in every proffession i mentioned above. criminals are involved in professional sports. they are in basketball, football, boxing, etc.

Now when it became a felony with some considerable jail time what happened was a more hardened criminal element got involved because they were al ready breaking mor serious laws carried harsher penalties and these assholes were in it to make money and get status. now these people were not just minorities they were from all races and they were scum they did not care about the dogs they trearted them like objects not athletes who need to be properly cared for

the men involved in the beginning were not in it for that they truly admired the skills of the dogs the same way that people admire the skills of horses, sled dogs, greyhounds and human athletes and they sought out to preserve these skills, that literally created one of the most athletic, brave, stable, friendly outgoing confident dogs ever by doing so

I am not saying it is right to match dogs but i am saying making it a felony and blowing the whole dogfighting act out of proportion and down right lying about has caused irreparable harm to these magnificent dogs and got an extremely bad element interested in them when before these dogs were relatively unknown un popular and under the radar. all the HSUS and media has done is as usual make matters worse.

I think you are a very intelligent person and would like to hear your thoughts

Michael

DAN,

I am not being mean but you literally bought in to the media hype i have been involved with the APBT for as long as i have been alive and have never starved beaten or manipulated my dogs nor have i fought them, but an overwhelming majority would fight another dog with zero coaxing from me.

And before you ask yes i have properly socialized each and every puppy i have brought into this earth and never sold one. i dont breed very often usually every maybe 6 or seven years on average. i have given away a few to friends and family but usually keep the whole litter as i show them in the ADBA and top dog events. I have extensively studied dog behaviour body laguange and psychology i am no expert but well versed. I do with my pups what Ian Dunbar suggests i ask friends and family to bring there well mannered dogs over and socialize each pup them. Now do to this my dogs are extremely laid back they do not go crazy at the sight of another dog and generally ignore them. but the subtle signs of them wanting to engage in combat with other dogs are there. many of my dogs over the years did get along with certain dogs they usually love little dogs and ocasionally same size dogs. but if you didnt no my dogs ypu would think they were friendly with all dogs. when they see another dog they do not go crazy but they do intensely stair tail wagging and ears upright with a relatively tense body these are not signs of wanting to play they are signs of wanting to fight

Now before some asshole says that this proves these dogs are different and crazy it does not. all my dogs are extremely well trained on leash and off they do not pull me drag me or any of that. they have perfect recall and when told to to direct all attention to me when walking by dogs. they are under my complete control

Socializing these dogs with other dogs works to a point which i have described above, but i does not take away completely there desire to fight, it makes it extremely managable and some of my dogs of the opposite sex will play together and even sleep in my bed together, but they are still what i would call dog aggressive.

And your view of dog fighters is extremely skewed. i have met a few over the years and it is kind of hard not meet them when trying to by a registered purebred APBT. and they are not what you describe. they get no sexual arrousal or power trip from watching these dogs. to them it is the same as training a boxer for a fight. there is no forcing you can hone their skills they are born with and get there cardiovascular system ready but you can not train beat starve or force these dogs to fight one another.

I dont condone their actions but i respect, and am greatfull they created this breed because without those men who you call dispicable there would be no APBT

What i have written here is truth. not media or HSUS lies. I to believed them. but my genuine curiousness got the best of me and i read and studied and talked to the men who created these dogs and found them to be nothing like you and the media have described them to be

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