Supreme Court weighs animal cruelty law

The United States Supreme Court is considering overturning a decade-old law banning depictions of animal cruelty. And according to one Supreme Court justice, that could pave the way for a “human sacrifice channel” or an “ethnic cleansing channel” on cable TV.

The court heard the case of United States v. Robert Stevens last week, in which U.S. Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal argued that Stevens should be convicted under Title 18, Section 48 of the U.S. Code.

The law states: “Whoever knowingly creates, sells, or possesses a depiction of animal cruelty with the intention of placing that depiction in interstate or foreign commerce for commercial gain, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.”

The law was originally enacted in response to bizarre sexual fetish videos known as “crush videos,” where women in high heels crush small animals to death. The court noted that the market for the videos dried up after the law was passed.

Stevens was convicted under the law in 2005 and sentenced to 37 months in prison. His conviction was due to the fact that he had edited and sold videos that depicted scenes of dog fighting and boar hunting with pit bulls, even though he had not actually filmed the scenes.

He appealed the verdict and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his conviction, saying that the law was unconstitutional and Stevens was protected under the First Amendment.

Now the Supreme Court must decide whether the statute is constitutional or not. During the case, the justices and lawyers argued about the scope of the law.

Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that people have the right to create images of questionable or illegal activities such as cock fighting or bull fighting. Scalia said proponents of these activities should be able to argue their side of the debate “as forcefully as possible.”

Justice Samuel Alito said that this could be then taken to extremes, and questioned Stevens’ lawyer, Patricia Millett on her views.

“Then what about people who – who like to see human sacrifices?” Alito said. “Suppose that is legally taking place someplace in the world. I mean, people here would probably love to see it. Live, pay per view, you know, on the human sacrifice channel. They have a point of view they want to express. Thats okay?”

Several of the justices argued that the law is too broad and could be used to ban instructional videos on hunting or other legal activities. It was not clear when the court would deliver its opinion, but decisions can take several months.

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