The Supremes

Court Entertains Kitten-Stomping Debate

The hypotheticals were both amusing and disturbing at the Supreme Court’s Tuesday hearing on the constitutionality of a ban on videos that depict animal cruelty. The law, created in response to "crush" videos—a fetish genre featuring barefoot or stiletto-clad women crushing small animals—forbids any recording "in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed." In a surprise twist, conservative Justices Scalia and Alito seemed to take opposing positions: Scalia pointed to the interests of free speech, asking "What if I am an aficionado of bullfights and I think, contrary to the animal-cruelty people, that they ennoble both beast and man?" Alito, on the other hand, explored the limits of government leniency in the face of barbarism: Imagining if human sacrifice were legal somewhere abroad, Alito commented, "People here would probably love to see it. Live, pay per view, you know, on the Human Sacrifice Channel." The court's case deals with the only time the 1999 "crush" ban has been successfully prosecuted: the conviction of Virginian Robert Stevens' for compiling and selling not "crush" movies, but ones depicting dogfights.