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« Feline Claw Snipping Law works against No Kill Goals | Main | Des Moines, IA Considering BSL, News Report "Interesting" »

October 01, 2009


Heather B

So anyone can make these videos but they cant sell them. Have I got that?
The man makes money filming violent cruel acts.Done time for selling the vid`s.
Have the TV stations, H$US and ASPCA paid for such videos? Does that make them accessory to a crime?
This is confusing.
"serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value."
How can animal torture fit into any of these grey areas . There`s nothing artistic , historical,etc about cruelty and abuse animal or human.

Brent Toellner

If Stevens wins the case, it will be ok to make these videos and sell them. Now, the catch is, they would have to make the videos overseas -- or use video footage from other countries - because the act of animal abuse itself is still illegal. But if Stevens wins, they could technically film the video elsewhere where the activity is legal and then distribute the videos here.

As for the exceptions, I agree that I am having a tough time finding "artistic or religious value" options -- but theoretically if HSUS had footage, and wanted to use it to promote the need for harsher penalties for dog fighting, they could make a case for "educational" and "political value". Same with "historical" - if someone wanted to do a documentary on how American's have treated dogs throughout history, there would be many horrific examples that they might choose to show examples of....we don't have the best track record. And journalists get a lot of free reign -- for instance -- if they wanted to show "undercover" video of abuse taking place in a puppymill operation, that would likely be covered also -- but the exceptions are far from clearly defined.


With the particular case (Stevens), this says it all to me: "“Because I’m not going to show any participants or spectators, I have to cut a lot of it,” Mr. Stevens, who has a folksy manner and looks a little like the actor Bill Murray, said on one of the videos. “I only show certain action clips I think you’ll enjoy."

#1: Mr. Stevens knew dog fighting was illegal in the US and was willing to protect the identities of those engaged in a crime.

#2: Mr. Stevens fully admits to providing video footage that he thinks people will enjoy - i.e. "action clips" of dogs engaged in fighting. This indicates a lack of educational or journalistic interest (and thus would be a violation of the 1999 law, unless one does not agree that dog fighting is animal cruelty).

As to the actual issue at hand (free speech), there is something to be said about propagating material depicting illicit actions as potentially more dangerous or detrimental to society than the acts depicted. It perpetuates the crimes, encourages possible duplications and allows anyone with a camera to profit off of the crime so long as s/he does not commit the crime him/herself. Whether that should be a federal crime or not is up to the justice's to decide.

The law was pretty specific, though, to extreme animal cruelty being used to provide sexual release to a niche market of perverts.

It will be interesting to see how the justices rule.

Brent Toellner


I agree with you. I don't know anything about Stevens, but my suspicion is that he isn't exactly the model representative of the 1st Amendment protection advocacy groups. And I also agree that many of the illicit images actually do help perpetuate these crimes and in many ways glamourize the activities for a certain segment of the population. In fact, a lot of people I know that were involved in this back in the 70s are very critical of HSUS's use of the video footage of dog fighting and think that it actually spurred more interest in the activity.

It will be an interesting court case. The 1st Amendment has traditionally been one of the most protected amendments (largely because of the importance newspapers have had on american culture). I think that the best case scenerio would most likely be a well crafted verdict that rules against Stevens, but offers a pretty narrow and specific scope of what is not protected by the 1st Amendment -- and I really hope they do not intend to include a lot of gray area as the law currently reads.


The "educational" value of H$U$ and their dog fighting videos is bunk - they promote dogfighting to raise funds. When Nat Geo did that show on the Vick saga they actually SHOWED HOW TO STAGE A FIGHT!? I wouldn't mind if their activity was limited as well.

I tend to think the dog fighting is so heinous is should be treated like child porn and should only be used in prosecution of the crime and severely limited educational purposes. Does ANYONE really need to see a dog fight to understand the violence anymore than one would need to see child porn to understand its harm?


I dont see why HSUS, CNN, Sports Illustrated, Animal Planet etc should be allowed to make money showing these videos while Stevens cannot.


Based on this could we make videos of people being murdered, or maybe crime scenes with a lot more detail than the typical news short, just because people enjoy them?

Maybe we could get a camera and follow kids that are slipped ecstacy and molested, and use it to raise money to combat date rape?

Of course not. The only reason we are having this discussion (and many others on this blog) is because many people don't repspect dogs for the value they bring us.

I am a strong first amendment proponent. You want to put your cross and sheep and star of david and whatever the wiccans use in front of city hall, fine by me. You want to shave all the hair off your head and shout hateful things from a hill in the park or around a school? Go for it - I have a brain, I'm not threatened by it, and most people I know can think past that sort of theatre.

I can't imagine that anyone but a sociopath would _enjoy_ seeing a dogfight. And I don't see the difference between them and those who would exploit it for their own purposes. Shame on the HSUS and others for using videos of dog fighting (or headlines about "Pit Bulls") to promote their cause or sell advertising. It's not necessary. There's an interesting paper out there which talks about donors giving more when you focus on individuals instead of the larger tragedies behind them. I would bet a thousand bucks right now that if you showed one group video of a dogfight and another just scarred, bloody face of the victims, then asked for a donation to fight this, the victim pictures would generate 3 times as much revenue. There is no value, no education, in tragedy. It's just tragedy.

On the other hand - I am a proponent of free speech. And sometimes I substitute people for dogs when I am thinking about the impact of an issue, just to see how it changes the discussion. So in the spirit of Mr Stevens work and the artistic endeavor he strives for...while he is in prison, perhaps we could take up a collection and lock him in a room with, say, 3-4 other gentlemen who receive him as Say for a week or two. We could even offer blood transfusions to make sure he stays alive. Maybe they would fight over him, (purely for entertainment purposes, of course). It could be filmed, and sold to people who would enjoy watching it. It would certainly give him a more educated point of view about what the victims he hopes to profit from are going through. Maybe he could offer a more informed opinion as to which category it might fall under - "serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value"?


AMEN Emily! I couldn't agree more...wouldn't you love to know how many dog fights were staged by idiots that watched their "news" stories?

Dan and others, has anyone scene the video of the Chicago school boy that was beaten to death? I saw that it had been posted and at that time it was certain he'd died. I didn't watch and think it was 100% WRONG for it to be shown the internet. I don't know how much of the beating was shown...but in a civiliZed world I don't think we should be gawking over someone's death.


This case is particularly troubling for those of us who are passionate about animals AND strongly believe in freedom of speech. Here's an article that presents both sides:

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