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Friday, June 25, 2010

Fighting to Crush Cruel Videos

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday unanimously passed H.R. 5566, bipartisan legislation by Reps. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., to crack down on traffickers of animal crush videos. It marks an important step for the legislation, which will ban interstate and foreign commerce in obscene videos of extreme acts of animal cruelty—the intentional crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, and impaling of puppies, kittens, and other animals for the sexual titillation of viewers.

The HSUS and HSLF are fighting hard to make sure legislation to crack down on traffickers of animal crush videos is enacted quickly.

The bill comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a 1999 law banning video depictions of animal cruelty, which the court found was overbroad and could have unintended consequences of sweeping up protected speech. The court left open a pathway for Congress to pass more narrowly crafted legislation targeting crush videos, and the new bill is finely tuned to do just that. We are grateful to Reps. Gallegly and Peters for pushing this issue forward, as well as Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who have been critical allies in this effort, and Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., Ranking Member Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., all of whom worked hard to make sure the language was solid and the bill advanced swiftly.

The HSUS and HSLF are fighting hard to make sure the legislation is enacted as soon as possible, because we’ve seen the impact on the ground, and in the dark corners of the crush video subculture. There were at least 3,000 separately produced crush videos readily available in the marketplace selling for up to $300 apiece in the late 1990s, but after the original law was enacted, they all but vanished. A decade later, once the law was invalidated, we saw crush videos repopulate the Internet as the makers of these snuff films apparently feel they have a free pass to torture animals for profit. We need to have a new law on the books soon to give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on this sickening cruelty.

Until we have such a federal policy, we need Internet providers and online companies to step up to the plate and prohibit crush videos from being shown on their sites. Facebook, Vimeo, and Photobucket have all pledged to The HSUS that they will not allow crush videos on their sites—we commend them and call on other companies to match that commitment.

Senators Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., plan to introduce a companion bill soon in the Senate, and we ask you to take action today by asking your two U.S. senators to sign on as original cosponsors. There is perhaps no type of animal abuse so evident, indefensible and uniformly condemned as high-heeled women crushing kittens to death or lighting rabbits on fire for sick entertainment and profit, and it cries out for reform. We faced a setback on this issue with the court ruling, but we have stuck with it and will keep pounding away until the peddlers of these snuff films once again are driven out of business.


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