Friday, October 09, 2009

Animal Cruelty Movies

The supreme court is (probably) about to strike down a ban on videos that feature animal cruelty such as dog fights. It sounds like their decision is based on free speech, and the particular case is about a video that was made by piecing together other videos shot in countries where dogfighting is legal. The question is whether the production and sale of these videos should be legal.

It's always fun to listen to Nina Totenberg recite the conversations among supreme court justices. But in this case, I think they're missing an important comparison (though they're making the right decision). They're comparing videos depicting animal cruelty to videos depicting child pornography (on which there is a ban), trying to decide if there's a way the animal videos could be considered educational or artsy. (By the way, this reminds me of The Jerk.)

But I think there's a line between doing something illegal (dogfighting, abusing children, killing people, etc.) and watching it. What if any of these videos were made using computer graphics only, and no children or animals were involved? What if it were just some person with a computer who didn't affect anyone else in the process? Should that be illegal? And if he sold it to another adult who was interested in watching, should that be illegal? Nobody's getting hurt. I don't see anything wrong with it.

By no means am I advocating animal cruelty. It is rightly illegal. But I don't think it's any worse than cruelty to humans (violence, murder, genocide), and we watch that in movies all the time. Most of us are able to draw a line between watching something and doing it.

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