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Animal cruelty DVDs as free speech: Will the Supreme Court buy that?

April 21, 2009 |  1:22 pm

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. It is almost as disgusting and vicious as animal cruelty and torture itself, that someone would get away with claiming 1st Amendment protections for making a living by selling videos of it.

The Supreme Court is set to hear a case from a man appealing his conviction for selling videos of pit bulls fighting. A federal appeals court had agreed with him that while the dogfighting is illegal, selling pictures of it is not.

Go ahead, switch on the DVD. Wow, dogs ripping the jaw off a terrified pig -- that's entertainment! (And that's one of the videos this man sold.) Animal cruelty is illegal in every state in this country. It is a crime. To make money off a crime is to compound the crime. That's one of the many good reasons that child pornography is illegal.

So to say these videos can be sold and distributed even though the acts they show are against the law -- you might as well do the same for human ''snuff'' films depicting murders, because that's all that these are. Snuff films of animals. "It isn't murder, your honor -- it's free speech!"

Congress has already outlawed at least some of this reprehensible trade. It passed a law 10 years ago -- a law sponsored by a Simi Valley Republican congressman named Elton Gallegly -- to ban the sale of  cruelty videos, like the ones showing women wearing spike heels impaling and crushing small animals to death with their stilettos.

So 10 years later, this is a free speech issue?

If the justices find that videos of these cruelty crimes are legal, even though the acts themselves are not, they will be winking at, even encouraging, what might monstrously be called the cruelty entertainment industry -- all the dogfighting, the ''crush videos,''  the unspeakable acts of torture and abuse. 

Who cares if it's illegal to stage, as long as it's legal to film? Selling DVDs and videos of it, making money on websites showing this vileness, will only encourage more cruelty and violence. After all, the bail, the fines, the defense lawyers and the court costs for staging the illegal violence can simply be paid for by the profits from the ''free speech'' entertainment sales. Merely a cost of doing business. Welcome to Corporate Cruelty America Inc. 

This isn't about the 1st Amendment protecting hateful speech -- it's about trying to pervert the 1st Amendment as a shield for murder, for a ''business'' built on the blood and pain and terror of blameless and defenseless creatures.

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: The U.S. Supreme Court building. Credit: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images.

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