prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Should Portrayals of Animal Cruelty be Protected?

Posted by prof e on April 21, 2010

I have a documentary about fly fishing that airs on RMPBS this Monday (April 26th, 9:30pm). Thanks to yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling I may have to worry about PETA picketing my show for depictions of cruelty to trout, but I won’t have to worry about serving jail time. Even though the featured fly fishermen practice catch and release, there may be instances of temporary pain or emotional distress on the part of the trout.

Okay, that was a rather light-hearted beginning to a very serious blog about a very serious issue. Animal cruelty is wrong and, in many cases, illegal. But not always. In Spain bull fighting is a highly revered cultural tradition that, according to the Humane Society, kills about 250,000 bulls each year. People often differ as to what constitutes cruelty to animals. Few people argue in support  of the kind of dog fighting that led to the conviction and sentencing of Michael Vick. On the other hand, sport hunting is big business and has a many supporters and advocates.

Perhaps the most vocal opposition to animal cruelty is when it is directed at animals typically regarded as pets. Many years ago the Bonsai Kitten website created an uproar that persisted even after the site was revealed as satire. In this case it was a joke, in poor taste perhaps, but only a joke.

A few years ago, however, reports surfaced of a Chinese woman who stomped a kitten to death with stiletto heals. The New York Times described it as follows:

The short video made its way around China’s Web in early 2006, passed on through file sharing and recommended in chat rooms. It opens with a middle-aged Asian woman dressed in a leopard-print blouse, knee-length black skirt, stockings and silver stilettos standing next to a riverbank. She smiles, holding a small brown and white kitten in her hands. She gently places the cat on the tiled pavement and proceeds to stomp it to death with the sharp point of her high heel.

Apparently there is an underground market for fetish “crush” videos in which women in high heels crush all manner of lifeforms–from bugs to, yes, kittens.

The reason this is back in the news is that the US Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision yesterday, struck down a 1999 law against animal cruelty that, according to the Court, was written too vaguely. The ruling overturned the conviction of Robert Stevens of Pittsville, Virginia. Stevens is, according to Newsweek, a self-described dog trainer, author, and documentarian, had been charged with violating interstate commerce laws by selling depictions of animal cruelty through his business. According to the Court the law used to convict Stevens could have infringed on hunting videos. Chief Justice Roberts wrote:

The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits. The First Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the government outweigh the costs. Our Constitution forecloses any attempt to revise that judgment simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it.

What do you think? Should First Amendment protection apply to despicable depictions of animal cruelty?


26 Responses to “Should Portrayals of Animal Cruelty be Protected?”

  1. Lindsey Harris said

    Animal cruelity is one of those issues that has far too many vague lines to begin with. While I am spectacularly against kitten abuse and other pets being abused. However fishing is not really animal abuse in my opinion. Next it will be considered illegal to eat the fish. Or better yet, they’ll move on to other animals that have been “mistreated” in their opinion for years. However circulating animal abuse portrayals falls back into the question of what you consider animal abuse itself. Fishing is far less violent then let’s say hunting. Or football. A clearly written law dictating what animal cruelity is considered to be by the Supreme Court and be done with it.

  2. Gina Ortega said

    I think that animal cruelity is distasteful, wrong, and disgusting. How could anyone hurt animals in such a nonhumane way? How can anyone put dogs or cocks to fight others of its own kind? People who have no life and are greedy are the ones who can do this terrible act. They make bets on the lives of other living creature. On the other hand, I do not believe catching fish is animal cruelty. This action is just like a person who kills cows, pigs, lamb for the sake of eating it. This issues seems a little ridiculous to consider fly fishing illegal but also controversial. If the lives of animals that are being killed are considered cruelty than should it go for all animal? This can cause issues between our society and what we know, and those humanitarians who believe all animals that are killed is cruelity. These are some things that we must all think about because it can effect the turn out to this issue.

  3. Patrick Carey said

    I think that animal cruelty is wrong and shouldn’t be protected by the first amendment the first amendment protects religion, speech, press, assembly, and grievance. I think that this does not apply to animal cruelty videos or selling portrayals of animal cruelty and if someone is on film harming an animal harmed an animal doing some kind of portrayal they should be punished to the full extent of the law. People should not use the first amendment as loop hole to harm animals if someone was showing film of people being harmed it would not be protected by the first amendment neither should anything that harms animals

  4. Lauren Dominick said

    First of all any kind of animal cruelty is just plain wrong. I don’t care if it’s for business, pleasure, hunting, etc. Secondly, no I do not believe that the First Amendment should protect people that are abusers of animals. However, it is a grey area. There are websites posted about the results of child abuse, and the pictures can be fairly graphic, but it’s educational. It’s informational for teachers. So I suppose if your going to ban depictions of animal cruelty than in the same token you would have to ban pictures of anything graphic.

  5. Daniella Cauffiel said

    Everyone has their own opinion to what animal abuse exactly is. To me all animal abuse is terrible and just wrong. Abusing animals for the amusement of a person is never okay, in my opinion. I do not agree with the sport, hunting. It is not normal to kill something that did nothing to you. In the past and the beginning of humans animals were only killed for food and every part of that animal was used for something. I believe it should still be like that, we should only kill what we need, nothing more. Although I strongly dislike kittens the bonsai kittens disturb me, the person putting the kitten into the jar got to grow normally, why can’t the kitten have that chance? Everything living deserves a chance at life, as humans we are not giving everything living a chance, that includes other humans. The first amendment should put more thought into what it really protects and explain further to protect more animals in the United States. Hopefully someday we can save more animals and give them a chance to live a happy well deserved life.

  6. Anna DeRose said

    Abusing any type of animal is wrong in my opinion. Hunting and fishing do not sit on the same level as animal abuse unless a person is just doing it for the pure plessure of killing. I personally do not think that the First Amendment should be issued in protecting people who display awful images of animal abuse. It is wrong and against cultural norms but people still display inappropriate things of humans and the First Amendment should deal with that before it does with animals I think. Abuse is wrong no matter what culture or beliefs a person might have, it is the government’s opinion if they think that it needs to be written in the Constitution.

  7. Jackie Perea said

    I do not believe that the first Admendment should protect people and their decisions to abuse animals. Though some may consider things such as fishing and hunting as animal cruelty, they have still been accepted into our society because they are activites done for sport, not just to be cruel and bring harm to animals. However I do not believe these are the same cicumstances as a lady stomping on innocent kittens. I think the first Amendent is irrevelent to the issue of animal abuse, however i believe laws about animal cruelty are being too overlooked and neglected and should still be delt with.

  8. Georgia Hartsfield said

    I don’t think the First Admendment should protect abuse of any kind. Hunting and fishing isn’t something I’m very fond of but most people when they go hunting they use the animal as a food source. Very few people kill a deer for no reason other then to shoot something. However those are the people we need to look out for. I believe that when it comes to censoring the media there is a line. When its something thats natural I don’t think it should be censored, but cruelity to humans and animals alike I think should be looked at. I wouldn’t want to see a real person kill another person just like I don’t want to see an animal beat to death. Animal cruelty seems to be taken to lightly, I feel that it is something that should be delt with and under no circumstance should it be seen in a postive light.

  9. Amanda Starr said

    I feel that this situation should be handled outside of the constitution. I don’t agree with abuse of any kind; however, I feel that there is too much of a gray area to include it in the First Amendment. I believe there should be laws made against it, but including it in the constitution would limit other activities such as fishing and hunting which are not really animal abuse. What about the slaughterhouses and meat packing industry? I consider the way they treat their animals to be more abusive than hunting animals for food. This is a contriversial subject, but it doesn’t mean it should be outlawed.

  10. Angel Smith said

    Animal cruetly is wrong and should not be protected by the first amendment. The first amendment protects rights such as freedom of speech, the press and the freedom to assemble. While the advertisement and the documentation of animal cruetly falls under the press and speech it should not be condoned through the constitution. The constitution was created to protect the rights of all living things. Instead there should be laws to protect animals and something done to reinforce them.

  11. Brian Miller said

    The First Amendment is a huge topic of discussion all the time, what it covers and what does not. What is a violation and what is not. Our “human” rights are the what are in the constituation. The way it works is you have the right to say and do what you want as long as it does not intrude on the rights of another human. Not an animal. So this really is not an issue of the human rights or even freedom of speech but of common sense. and rules again inhuman treatment of animals, because personally stomping a kitten to death some some guy can get his jollies, that makes me sick to my stomach. People take pets into their homes as family and i am that way to to hear people that are horrid towards animals. That is shown to be the beginning of serial killers. just an fyi.

  12. Bryon Mick said

    I would never want to watch a video like that depicting such cruelty to animals. Its wrong period, people who wanna watch it are really sick. However the freedom of expression is the freedom of expression. I dont agree with it but there are sick people that want it. If it really is freedom of expression than it can technichally be there on the internet like countless other graphic items. Like i said, i dont agree with it but there is technically a right to display it.

  13. Brianna Gassner said

    Ok just as a note, I’ve tried to post a comment twice on here and it’s not showing up.

  14. jose lozano said

    Life is to be cherished no matter what. weather it be my life your life or an animals life, they all have the same value. Just because we are the most dominant species on earth and have the ability to take the life of other species doesnt make it right.

  15. Dalton Ries said

    Animal cruelty is a practice that is wrong. However I think the depiction of acts of cruelty should be up to the discresion of the network. If they are willing to deal with the reprecussions that come with showing a cruel act then mmore power to them. as long as a disclaimer is given before the showing of the video then that gives the viewer the chance to switch the stations, if the viewer chooses to watch it then they watch it at their own peril.

  16. curtis said

    this is just silly. even most vegans appreciate the sport of fishing. i thought fish were categorized differently than mammals. fishing is one of the worlds most classic hobbies and most beginners require a tutorial for which to learn. unless your’e fishing for dolphins i dont find a problem..

  17. Reagan Best said

    I feel that animal cruelty is not okay. Animals can’t speak for themselves so I think people should. I watched a documentary on animal abuse one time and it was so sad. It showed animals that have lost their eyes because of dog fighting, or animals that have been beaten and neglected. How can people do this to an animal? All they do is show love towards you and you give hate back that is not okay. It relates to what we are talking to in class because you asked if we have ever seen a movie or a show that has changed the way we view things and this is one thing that has changed my few. People need to respect animals even though they are not a human they still live too. Having animals protected by the first amendment would be a great idea.

  18. Robert Garcia Jr said

    There goes alot into animal cruelity and it would be hard to tackle. I personally would be all for it being apart of the 1st amendment because think about it, many of us treat animals as if they were a human being. When people do things like the story written about in the blog, people cringe and look for there cat and rub its belly. I have a hard time watching I AM LEGEND when Will Smith has to choke his best friend being a dog to death. If not being apart of the 1st amendment then make harsher penalities because Vick got off too easy and is now back in the sport.

  19. Paul Austin said

    I’m all for protecting animals from people that are downright cruel and idiots that think they are funny. Just came arose this facebook page Kittens in a Jar. This guy is getting encouraged by “friends”?
    The picture showing is a mild one.!/group.php?gid=126978004018618&v=wall&ref=ts

  20. Vanessa Emerson said

    There is a big difference between animal cruelty and exercising your right to freedom of speech. There is a big differences between showing videos of hunting techniques with viewpoints that feature professionals which may be considered violent, compared to somebody being involved in the actual act of animal cruelty themselves. It is no longer freedom of speech or freedom of expression when you begin to physically hurt or harm another living being. If something is being affected physically by your actions in a harmful manner, I believe that person should not be able to use the protection of the first amendment in their defense.

  21. gabrielle said

    this is horrible and cruel this should be stop

  22. game keys said

    game keys…

    […]Should Portrayals of Animal Cruelty be Protected? « prof. e.[…]…

  23. Deherrera Stephanie said

    I think that animal cruelity is wrong. I just don’t understand how people can hurt animals in such a nonhumane way. I believe there should be laws made against it, but including it in the constitution would limit other activities that i don’t consider animal crulity. I do not believe that the First Amendment should protect people that are abusers of animals.

  24. cassy said

    Poor cat

  25. Deann Pantoya said

    As an animal lover I totally think that animal cruelity is wrong. Since animals can’t speak for themselves, they need loving and caring humans to speak for them. I can’t understand how someone could do such horrible things to animals. I could never even stand the thought of doing such horrible things to my cat. I just don’t understand how someone could hurt an animal in such a horrible way. Or where they would even get the thought to do just nonhumane things to animals. I do not believe that poeple should be protected by the first amendment if they abuse animals.

  26. This is disgusting. I believe it doesn’t matter if like animals or not. I have family members who are not animal lovers, however would never hurt an animal. The Chinese Industry/Market is disgusting, it disgusts me more and more each day. Dogs, Cats, ANY animal are not clothing….should not be caged……..beaten……….burned……or hurt in any way. Please like my facebook page, and spread the word, no matter how loud it is because these animals can not speak, we have to be their voices. There will be hope that one day the Chinese Market will be brought down, and that all acts of animal cruelty will be prosecuted. I believe that one day there will be peace between all human and animals.

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