Senators Introduce Animal Crush Video Prohibition

– U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) today introduced the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010.  The bipartisan bill would criminalize the creation, sale, distribution, advertising, marketing, and exchange of animal crush videos. The penalty for violations of the measure would be up to seven years in prison.  

Animal “crush” videos are violent, obscene depictions of animal cruelty – often involving young women torturing small animals to death.  Such videos serve to fulfill the sexual fetish of a small segment of society.  These videos were the target of a 1999 federal statute that the Supreme Court struck down earlier this year in U.S. v. Stevens on the basis that it was unconstitutionally overbroad.  

The Stevens case did not specifically involve crush videos and the Court stated that it was not deciding whether a statute limited to crush videos would be constitutional.  Instead it left the door open for Congress to enact a narrowly tailored ban on animal crush videos.

“Videos depicting extreme animal cruelty have no place in our society,” Senator Merkley said.  “I’ve worked closely with Senators Kyl and Burr to ensure that this bill protects free speech while ending depictions of the torture and abuse of helpless animals for financial gain.”

“Our legislation would ban animal crush videos that fit squarely within the obscenity doctrine — a well-established exception to the First Amendment.  It also takes the important step of banning non-commercial distribution of animal crush videos, which is necessary given the nature of the Internet and the propagation of file-sharing and peer-to-peer networks that exist today,” said Senator Kyl.

“Animal crush videos are far beyond what most people would think of when they hear the phrase ‘animal cruelty’ – they are shockingly gruesome, unbelievably cruel, and disturbingly perverse.  While all 50 states and the District of Columbia already have laws prohibiting animal cruelty, those who commit these acts are currently able to tape their illicit conduct and sell and exchange the footage online.  Our legislation is narrowly tailored to address the creation of these videos for interstate commerce, and will give law enforcement the tools they need to stop this abhorrent practice,” said Senator Burr.

“Congress should act swiftly to make sure these barbaric acts of cruelty are stopped and those who commit these crimes don’t profit by peddling these gruesome videos on the Internet,” said Vice President of State Affairs for the Humane Society of the United States Kelly Peterson.  Peterson is a native Oregonian and currently resides in Portland.

Representatives Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and Gary Peters (D-MI) have sponsored a House companion bill, the Prevention of Interstate Commerce in Animal Crush Videos Act (H.R. 5566).  The bill passed the House by a vote of 416-3.