First Amendment

Animal Fight Promoters Challenge Law


Broadcasters of cockfights and dog fights are challenging a federal law that bars depictions of animal cruelty for commercial gain.

In a case pending before a federal appeals court in Philadelphia, Robert Stevens claims the law is so vague it could be applied to hunting and fishing broadcasts. The full 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the appeal of his conviction for broadcasting a dog fight, the New York Times reports.

Lawyers for Stevens contend in a brief that the law does not accomplish its objective. “It is hard to imagine,” the brief says, “how the punishment of depictions of conduct which occurred a long time ago, at a time when it was not even illegal, or in a country where it is not illegal, can prevent animal cruelty here and now, at a time and a place where it is illegal.”

Prosecutors counter that the law “prohibits a new class of speech, so lacking in value, that it should not receive First Amendment protection.” The law was enacted in response to videos that show women crushing animals with their bare feet or while wearing high-heeled shoes.

A company that broadcasts cockfights on the Internet is the latest litigant to challenge the law, in a suit filed yesterday in Miami federal court. It shows cockfights in Puerto Rico, where they are legal.

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