More than 10 years ago, Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, took on a cause. Underground businesses in Southern California were selling videos of animals being tortured and killed. Specifically, in so-called "crush" videos, kittens, hamsters, birds, even monkeys were taped to the floor while women, in spiked heels or barefoot, stepped on the animal until it died. Viewers heard the animal's screams of pain and bones breaking.
So Gallegly championed a bill, the Punishing Depictions of Animal Cruelty Act of 1999, which Congress passed overwhelmingly and President Bill Clinton signed.
Now, however, the U.S. Supreme Court, on an 8-1 decision, has overturned that law, saying that it was overbroad.
The justices believed the 1999 law could ensnare hunting and fishing videos. They feared, too, that it might ban documentary films, such as "Dealing Dogs" (2006), which included undercover footage showing mistreatment of dogs at a kennel. Or press coverage, such as an exposé on dogfighting.
As the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wrote in a brief, "It is often important to see and understand what practices are being discussed." That is true. Such coverage contributes to the public debate.
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