May 2009 Blog Home July 2009

22 posts from June 2009

June 30, 2009

Betting the Farm Against Reforms

There are two groups that politicians fawn over in ways that make sensible people shake their heads: the gun lobby and agribusiness. First, let me say that I have no problem with private ownership of firearms, but I do think there should be reasonable regulations (e.g., a prohibition on the sale of machine guns). But it’s the gun lobby’s defense of captive hunts, bear baiting, polar bear trophy hunting, carrying firearms in national parks, and other extremist positions that defy common sense and common decency. Regarding agriculture, I am a fan and a consumer, like everybody else who wants a square meal. But again, there must be some limits on conduct, especially when it comes to the care of animals used for meat, egg, and milk production.

Cows grazing on grass
© SXC/merlijn72

The political reputations of the gun lobby and of agribusiness are way of out of proportion with their numbers and actual voter influence, yet there is some mythic notion of their electoral clout. We’ve proved that it’s overblown in head-to-head fights with them in state ballot initiatives, where we have typically prevailed by wide margins. But today, I’ll deal with the agribusiness industry, perhaps because the issues are top of mind, having just finished an appearance on an agricultural radio program today and watching with astonishment as a couple of agriculture policy issues have played out in Ohio and in Congress within the last week.

For starters, in Ohio, The HSUS has publicly discussed the prospect of launching a campaign to phase out the confinement of veal calves, breeding pigs, and laying hens in small crates and cages on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), or as they’re more commonly called, factory farms—similar to our ballot initiative, Proposition 2, which both rural and urban Californians overwhelmingly approved last year. Despite entreaties from The HSUS, the Ohio Farm Bureau refused to engage in any negotiations to find a political solution to the conflict over these confinement systems, unlike more foresighted agriculture groups in Colorado and Maine where they engaged in actual compromise.

Instead of having a serious sit-down with us, the Farm Bureau hatched a plan with lawmakers to try to thwart the prospective initiative. And in an act of willful obedience, the Legislature approved a resolution in two days that places a measure on the November 2009 ballot to amend the constitution to create an industry-dominated council that will decide all rules related to farm animal handling. It’s a transparent attempt to forestall an initiative, codify industry norms, and to place a handful of people—nearly all of whom are expected to support the status quo—in charge of all farm animal welfare rules and to let the CAFOs operate without further limits.

Mind you, the Legislature passed this resolution to amend the constitution in two days—faster, in legislative terms, than a greased pig could slip through your hands. There were hearings and votes in the House and Senate agriculture committees on the same day—suggesting that the hearings were just a pro forma exercise. And both chambers passed the bills the day after they came out of committees. It was as if the resolutions were a pile of particularly foul-smelling manure and they wanted them out of the building as fast as possible. Lest you think they’re just quick workers there in Columbus, this is the same legislative body that has for years been sitting on and not acting on legislation to strengthen one of the five weakest anti-cockfighting laws in the country, to crack down on rampant puppy mills, and to halt the private ownership of dangerous wild animals as pets. When it comes to stopping cruelty, they really take their time, but when it comes to the wishes of agribusiness, they get the job done with war-time efficiency.

But what’s going on at the federal level is as remarkable, particularly as it relates to historic climate change legislation, which narrowly passed the House on Friday and faces a steep climb in the Senate. Agriculture groups and their allies in the Congress threatened to block the legislation unless agriculture was completely exempt from an accounting of its contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation doesn’t just exempt CAFOs and other farms from the cap on greenhouse gas emissions, it also rewards them by allowing them to sell carbon credits to other emitters. In an effort to pass the broader legislation, Democratic leaders counted the votes and gave a complete pass to agriculture even though, according to the United Nation’s report Livestock’s Long Shadow, animal agriculture contributes 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. In the U.S., that percentage may be a little lower, but the principle is the same—agriculture is part of the climate change picture, but the community doesn’t want to do its fair share to address the problem. Unbelievably, even after Big Agriculture won these concessions in the process, they are still opposing the bill!

As the climate legislation was being debated, lawmakers aligned with agribusiness also tried to prevent, through the Interior Appropriations bill, the Environmental Protection Agency from making an accounting of the greenhouse gas emissions of CAFOs in America. The House Appropriations Committee voted narrowly to tie EPA’s hands, but thanks to Senator Dianne Feinstein, a similar effort was fended off in the Senate. That issue will continue to play out as the Interior bill moves forward.

In the end, this is all about accountability. Industrial agriculture groups want no government rules when it comes to their treatment of animals, or their role in climate change. That’s not an acceptable position, it’s not supported by the vast majority of Americans, and you can bet they’ll get a fight from us as these issues play out in the months and years ahead.

June 29, 2009

More Evidence in Petland-Puppy Mill Enterprise

When The HSUS tackles an issue, we don't relent easily. And there is news to report on two of our long-standing battles—1) the fight to protect wolves in the lower 48 states, and 2) our campaign against Petland, the large retail pet chain, for its corporate practice of trafficking in dogs from puppy mills.

First, I am pleased to report that we've won another reprieve for wolves in the Great Lakes region. This is the sixth time we've fended off an effort by the federal government to delist wolves in the northern Great Lakes region and deny them federal protections provided by the Endangered Species Act. In this latest case, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted in the face of the most recent lawsuit filed by The HSUS and several other animal protection and conservation groups. There's much at stake here, since there's little doubt that the state fish and wildlife agencies in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin would proceed with wolf hunting and trapping programs once federal protections are lifted.

© The HSUS
One of the puppy mills that some Petland stores buy from.

And today, The HSUS released a second batch of evidence that confirms again that Petland is engaging in doublespeak when it claims it is not selling dogs from puppy mills. Our records analysis revealed that more than 95 percent of Petland's stores do buy from puppy mills, either directly from the facilities themselves, or indirectly through massive out-of-state brokers (middleman dealers) who traffic in thousands of puppies a year. In fact, more than 80 of Petland's outlets were found buying from the Hunte Corporation alone, a massive Missouri broker that traffics in approximately 80,000 puppies a year.

Since our initial eight-month Petland investigation linking dozens of Petland stores to puppy mills, Petland's corporate office and many of its franchises issued angry denials and said they deal only with a special selection of breeders who have "the highest standards."

Our new 2009 report revealed that some Petland stores are still buying from known puppy mills that The HSUS clearly named and identified in our 2008 investigation, including puppy mills where dozens or even hundreds of dogs were filmed running back and forth in cramped wire cages, and even one facility linked to a notorious convicted animal abuser.

Two stores in Florida were found still buying from the facility linked to Kathy Bauck in 2009, a well-known puppy mill operator whom we named and identified in our initial Petland investigation. Bauck was convicted of three counts of animal torture and one count of cruelty in March 2009.

Several stores were found buying from MAM Kennels and at least one from the facility of Charlene Koster in 2009—two other puppy mills we clearly named and identified in our initial report.

The new study links additional brokers and puppy mills who have public records of serious Animal Welfare Act violations directly to many of Petland's stores.

There's an easy way out for Petland. It can stopping selling dogs from large-scale commercial breeders and instead work with local humane organizations to make homeless dogs available for adoption, just like PetSmart and Petco do.

With The HSUS's second exhaustive look at animal transport records, the debate over where Petland procures its dogs is over. Now the question is, will the company continue with its archaic and inhumane practices, or begin to pay greater heed to animal welfare considerations in its business operations?

June 26, 2009

I Think This Dog Wants My Job

Today is Take Your Dog to Work Day, and thousands of businesses are expected to allow dogs to pass through security and lift the step of their employees. Throughout the day we'll be working with companies across the country to showcase their dogs at work programs to members of the media, to help get the word out about the benefits of such policies.

Bowing to the pressure of the dog lobby within my office, I authorized staff to enjoy the company of canines in the workplace more than two years ago. I say without reservation that it was the right decision, even if I was pandering to the masses.

Since then, we’ve published a book to help other workplaces implement dogs at work programs.

From pit bulls to Pomeranians, the dogs in our office are model citizens, and you might forget they were here if it weren’t for the dog treat jars strategically placed in our cubicles. Other times, the occasional squeak of a toy, thumping tail, or silly yawn remind us of their presence and probably lower our blood pressure. That’s needed here at The HSUS, since some of the things people do to animals raise our blood pressure hour to hour.

There’s no doubt the dogs enjoy the experience too and, in fact, our dog-friendly policy has given a few dogs a new lease on life—several staff adopted dogs after the program was instituted.

The majority of our office dogs spend their days slumbering, but a few take their job more seriously. Like Soco, a 5-year-old Chihuahua who comes to work with Cary Smith of our Humane Wildlife Services (and I’m told likes to dance for food).

When I provided an image of a dog in our workplace for last year’s Take Your Dog to Work Day, you came up with some fabulously entertaining captions. So here we go again—have at it, and share your creative captions by offering a comment or sending an email.

Soco, a Chihuahua who enjoys The HSUS's dog-friendly workplace

June 25, 2009

How We Rate

The HSUS has the 10th strongest brand of any nonprofit organization in the country, and is the only top 10 brand without an exclusive focus on human welfare issues, according to a national survey of 1,000 Americans by Cone and Intangible Business and widely reported in the press this week. It affirms once again the power of our name, and when combined with our more than 11 million members and supporters, it adds up to one of the strongest nonprofit entities in America.

Charity Navigator 4-Star Rating

I was also pleased recently to receive a letter from Charity Navigator, an independent charity watchdog organization, that again gave The HSUS a 4-star rating, the group’s highest mark. Ken Berger, president and CEO of Charity Navigator, wrote in his letter to The HSUS, “Only 7% of the charities we rate have received at least 4 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that The Humane Society of the United States consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way, and outperforms most other charities in America.“

In short, we know you want us to protect animals, and that’s the core of what we do. But to do that effectively, we have to run this organization well, and have the brand strength and public visibility to move public opinion in America and abroad. These two declarations provide third party validation to show we are on our way.

June 24, 2009

New Law Strikes in Puppy Mill Capital

Our Emergency Services unit and our Puppy Mills campaign raid squalid, overcrowded, and inhumane puppy mills all over the nation and deliver these animals into a new world filled with kindness and compassion. Yesterday, our team worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and its Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement in shutting down a major operation in Lehigh County and rescuing more than 200 dogs. The site was the misnamed “Almost Heaven Kennel,” but as the seizure revealed, it was anything but that for the dogs suffering on this property.

Dog rescued from Almost Heaven Kennel in Lehigh County, Pa.
© The HSUS/Turner
One of hundreds of dogs rescued in Pennsylvania.

In a swift operation that started around noon yesterday, The HSUS and state personnel removed the dogs from the property and transported them to an emergency holding facility in Harrisburg where the animals are being examined and cared for. The state gave The HSUS custody of the animals, and we’ll work with humane organizations and rescue groups to adopt the dogs to suitable homes when the animals are in proper condition.

We commend state officials for deciding to shut down this delinquent dog breeder and for inviting The HSUS to assist with the seizure and animal care operations. Almost Heaven—one of Pennsylvania’s most notorious puppy mills with a list of previous offenses—had capitalized on the popularity of “doodle” breeds, selling labradoodles, goldendoodles and "mini" goldendoodles for $1,000 or more.

The raid probably would not have occurred but for the dog protection legislation The HSUS and other groups worked so hard to pass in the state legislature last year.

When The HSUS works to pass legislation, we also work to enforce the law. We hope to put this new Pennsylvania dog law to use whenever high-volume breeders mistreat the animals and handle them like little more than a cash crop. We’ll continue to work with our friends at Main Line Animal Rescue, the Pennsylvania SPCA, and other groups to tackle cruelty in a state that has unfortunately come to be known as the Puppy Mill Capital of the East.

June 23, 2009

"FOOD, Inc.": Cleans Your Plate

Agriculture is a fundamental human enterprise, and civilization could not exist without it. It’s also a noble enterprise, and farmers are among the hardest-working of laborers.

Yet, as Michael Pollan, author of "In Defense of Food" and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” observes, “The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000.” Especially when it comes to animal production, it’s become industrialized, environmentally destructive, and needlessly inhumane.

"FOOD, Inc.," a new documentary showing now across the nation, chronicles how far modern industrial agriculture has strayed from its roots. Nicholas Kristof, who grew up on a mixed agriculture farm in rural Oregon, lauds the movie in his Sunday column in The New York Times.

And Jennifer Fearing, who was our manager for the landmark Proposition 2 campaign, has much to say about the documentary. She recently participated in a forum in Sacramento after a screening of the film and I asked her to share her thoughts.

The fundamental aim of "FOOD, Inc." is to expose the rampant abuse of power that has resulted in an inefficient, polluting, degrading, cruel, and unhealthy food system in America.

Food, Inc. movie poster

About a third of the film’s footage features feedlots, confinement facilities, and slaughterhouses. In an artful and effective way, images flick quickly from living animal to dead animal to carcass to giant vats of flesh. In so doing, the film underscores the cognitive dissonance so many people live with: identifying and empathizing with certain animals while eating others.

One scene sticks out in this regard and generated an interesting discussion at a screening The HSUS co-hosted in Sacramento last month. Joel Salatin, at his Polyface Farms in Virginia, is shown raising many of his animals in what most people would consider the “old-fashioned” way—outdoors, in small herds, with species-appropriate feed. Certainly Salatin’s methods are far preferable to how most farm animals are raised on industrial factory farms. But the film also shows Salatin and crew performing an outdoor slaughter of a number of chickens. They grab flapping birds and cut their throats while they’re fully conscious.

As was the case the two other times when I watched this scene with an audience, I looked around to see that the vast majority of the crowd reacts viscerally: grimacing, covering eyes, wincing, looking away. As Salatin and his workers engage in these acts, the audience becomes uncomfortable.

It’s in this space that "FOOD, Inc." has the biggest opportunity to impact the lives of the 10 billion animals raised for food each year—nearly all of whom live their lives on industrial factory farms and endure far more suffering than Salatin’s chickens. The film opens a window into modern food production, one which most consumers of food never get to see.

At the film’s close, a number of individual actions are proposed for filmgoers who will definitely be hungry for change. We all have the potential to positively affect the ills the film highlights, by reducing our consumption of animal products, supporting farmers who raise animals more humanely and sustainably, or making other lifestyle changes.

It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Every meal counts. And it’s not just The HSUS on board with this idea: writers such as Pollan and The New York Times’ Mark Bittman advocate reduction as well, with Bittman’s new book describing his “vegan until dinner” strategy.

A new PSA for "FOOD, Inc." featuring NBA star John Salley was unveiled at the Sacramento screening, and appears now on our website. Salley sums it up best: “Skip the meat, eat some veggies. You are the consumer, you have the power. Vote with your fork, three times a day.”

June 22, 2009

Talk Back: Rescued

Two recent stories with happy endings—the adoption of Gentle Ben, a blind and elderly Akita who was among more than 300 dogs rescued from an Arkansas puppy mill, and a MUTTS comic strip featuring our own Scotlund Haisley—inspired you, and today I post some of your comments.

In response to Ben's rehoming:

How absolutely wonderful that Ben was adopted and now lives in Vermont. Stories like Ben's bring hope to other animals in similar situations. I have six animals, all from rescue, and all have stories. Many blessings to the wonderful person who adopted Ben, you truly are our hero! —Sonja Gentry

So sweet and deserving. One of millions. Adopt, don't shop. —Charlene Inglis

What a way to brighten up one's day! I was so, so thrilled to hear that Ben was adopted; how wonderful for him and his new family. What beautiful people to make him part of their family and I am moved to tears that Ben will now be so loved and cared for. He truly deserves it. What joy this must bring to all involved! Thank you, HSUS, for making this possible for Ben and his family. All of you at HSUS and HSI, as well as all the volunteers, are so amazing; thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you do. God bless all of you and the animals too! —Karen Wagner

I was so touched with Ben's adoption. I have shed too many tears for the abuse and neglect of all these animals. I am so proud to be a monthly supporter and wish I could do more. Thanks for everything you do! —Maria Love

What a beautiful ending to a horrific beginning! —Rita H.

Continue reading "Talk Back: Rescued" »

June 19, 2009

Cutting Back Means Cutting Animal Consumption

At The HSUS, we are engaging in a range of cost-cutting management actions to cope with the downturn in the economy, but we are doing our best not to cut any essential animal protection programs. Especially in tough economic times, the determined actions of The HSUS and other animal protection groups are needed more than ever for animals in crisis.

Consumers are having to make tough cost-saving decisions, too. And as they strike some non-essential items from their shopping lists, they are shrinking demand for certain products that cause harm to animals. For example, the fur industry, which produces a luxury product, is experiencing waning sales. The Federal Trade Commission reported in 2005 that an estimated 3.5 million animal fur garments and accessories were for sale annually in the United States, and in 2009, that number has dropped to just more than 1 million—an astonishing decline of more than 70 percent. In fact, prices for seal pelts from Canada have declined by a record amount, though part of that steep decline is due to our closing markets for the pelts through policy changes in Europe and elsewhere.

HSUS Guide to Vegetarian Eating
Our guide provides the hows and whys
of reducing animal products in your diet.

Gourmet magazine is reporting that people are reducing to some degree their consumption of meat products. Given the inordinately high per capita consumption of animal products in America, this is good news for animals, the environment, and public health. The HSUS is a big tent organization, and we support people who want to switch to more humanely raised animal products, reduce the amount of meat in their diets, or try a vegetarian lifestyle—but the reduction of meat consumption is one of the best things we can do for the planet given how unsustainable the current levels of factory farming are.

Reductions in meat consumption means less support for factory farms—many of which confine animals in small cages or crates, and subject them to other procedures and handling practices that compromise their welfare. In fact, Smithfield Foods, which has pledged but not yet completed the shift toward eliminating gestation crates for sows, reported major financial losses during the last quarter, and it says it needs to shrink its pig population to account for decreasing demand. The dairy industry is also in the throes of reducing its size because of oversupply.

Gourmet notes “the USDA estimates that the production of meat from every major category of farm animal will drop for the first time since 1973.” This is also good news for the environment, since the massive numbers of animals on Confined Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, produce enormous volumes of waste, and pollute watersheds and streams. It also means less in the way of greenhouse gas emissions, since the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has reported that the animal agriculture sector worldwide accounts for 18 percent of all emissions—more than the entire transportation sector.

Unfortunately, some members of Congress don’t want the farm animal industries to do their fair share to combat the problem. Lawmakers aligned with the Farm Bureau and other ambassadors of agribusiness are actively working to exclude agriculture from the impact of any remedial actions to reduce climate change. As a result, you may hear from The HSUS soon to contact your lawmaker to turn this situation around.

As Gourmet’s editor Ruth Reichl noted in a powerful editorial about the detriment of raising so many animals for food on factory farms, “Now it is becoming increasingly clear that we ought to change our ways.”

June 18, 2009

Prop 2 Double-Talk by Egg Industry

During the Proposition 2 battle in California last year, the dueling campaigns didn’t agree on much. But there was at least one area where we held a common view: Prop 2, if enacted, would amount to a de facto ban on cage confinement of laying hens. Virtually all of the newspaper editorials, both for and against Prop 2, and news stories about the campaign were also explicit that the proposal would amount to a cage ban. As a result, the public debate over Prop 2 was grounded on our claim that battery cage systems are inherently inhumane, while opponents argued that the requirement to move to entirely cage-free systems would drive up costs for consumers and drive egg producers out of business.

Egg-laying hens in battery cage
© Compassion Over Killing

But now, seven months after voters approved the initiative and as the Senate takes up a bill, A.B. 1437 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (already approved by the Assembly 65-12), to apply Prop 2 standards to the sale of whole eggs, leaders of the egg industry have changed their tune. The leaders of the “No on 2” campaign are trying to amend A.B. 1437 by adding language to the bill that would “clarify” the language in Prop 2 to allow the use of cages to confine laying hens. Not only is the language in Prop 2 clear in banning commercially viable cage confinement systems, but the California legislature is constitutionally prohibited from modifying (or “clarifying,” as Prop 2 opponents are calling it) the language of this citizen’s initiative.

What’s even stranger about this post-election maneuver is that it contradicts just about everything the egg industry leaders said during the campaign. Debbie Murdock, a spokesperson for the “No on 2” campaign, wrote in a June 16 op-ed, “there is a common misperception that the initiative bans the use of cages to house egg-laying hens. It does not.”

That’s a head-snapping turn-around since the opponents of Prop 2 argued in the state’s official voting guide—which is the last word in determining the measure’s intent—that the ballot measure was “so extreme” that it would have the effect of “forcing hens outdoors for most of the day.” In short, the opponents didn’t just say Prop 2 would mandate cage-free systems, but also free-range systems (the latter being a point we contested).

An election season economic analysis—repeatedly touted by Prop 2 opponents—produced by the University of California asserted, “…if passed, the resulting regulations would eliminate the use of cage systems for laying hens in California.”

And a week after the election, on Nov. 11, 2008, the United Egg Producers, the Georgia-based egg trade association group that ran the campaign against Prop 2, wrote authoritatively: "Cages for laying hens and sow gestation crates will certainly be outlawed.”

We’ve agreed all along that one effect of Prop 2 is to halt the use of cage systems that are commercially viable. And we continue to hold that view.

In fact, in our first-ever press release about the campaign, issued on Oct. 1, 2007, we wrote that the law “will prevent the use of inhumane factory farming practices such as...battery cages for egg-laying hens.” We repeated that message over and over again throughout our campaign, and we even made it the headline of our web feature announcing the victory: “Californians Make History by Banning Veal Crates, Battery Cages, and Gestation Crates.”

The reason all sides of the campaign agreed the law would phase out cage confinement is because, quite simply, there’s no cage system used by the egg industry that allows birds to engage in the basic behaviors required by Prop 2. Cages are used because it’s cheap to cram birds into them, but if you must give the birds sufficient space to express the range of actions mandated by Prop 2, it makes economic sense simply to switch to a cage-free system. In fact, the United Egg Producers has already promulgated science-based cage-free standards that are fully compliant with Prop 2.

Further, our campaign’s “less than a penny per egg” mantra referring to the modest cost associated with producers’ compliance with Prop 2 was based on the egg industry’s own economic analysis of the cost differential between eggs produced by hens in cages and those from hens in cage-free systems.

Now that Prop 2 is law, the egg industry is trying to punch a hole in it, undo the will of the voters, and embrace its newfangled, post-election interpretation of Prop 2.

We’ve had a number of meetings with egg industry leaders, and have conveyed these views. We told them that we want to help them succeed in their transition to cage-free systems, now that voters spoke on the subject so clearly. That offer still stands, but we won’t allow this radical reinterpretation of Prop 2 to go unchallenged, and we won’t hesitate to remind them of their own repeated comments that subvert their current line of argument.

June 17, 2009

26 Attorneys General Join Case for Animal Cruelty Law

This fall, for the first time in more than 15 years, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a major case involving animal cruelty. The case concerns infamous dogfighting videographer Robert Stevens, who was convicted by a Pennsylvania jury of violating a 1999 federal law banning the commercial sale of videos depicting extreme and illegal acts of animal cruelty.

The Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act—authored by Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.)—was prompted in part by an HSUS investigation that uncovered an underground subculture of “animal crush” videos, where scantily clad women, often in high-heeled shoes, would impale and crush to death puppies, kittens and other small animals, catering to those with a sexual fetish for this aberrant behavior.

Injured pit bull at Alabama dogfighting raid
© The HSUS
The law in question bans depictions of
animal fighting and other extreme cruelty.

At the same time The HSUS filed its brief, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and 25 other state Attorneys General filed a brief arguing in support of banning these gruesome depictions, which merit no protection under the First Amendment.

The Attorneys General’s brief—which emphasizes how animal cruelty is often closely associated with other serious crimes such as gang activity, drug dealing, and violent felonies—is a powerful statement in support of The HSUS’s humane mission, and a reminder of how far we have come in a very short time in enlisting broad, mainstream support for the prevention of animal cruelty.

We garnered additional support from Washington Legal Foundation and Allied Educational Foundation, highly conservative public policy organizations, which also filed a brief arguing that Congress rightly banned trafficking in depictions of animal cruelty, and that doing so does not violate the First Amendment. As a frequent litigant challenging laws as violating First Amendment rights, the Washington Legal Foundation’s brief is likely to carry substantial weight with the Court.

At the other end of the political spectrum, New York University’s Center on the Administration of Criminal Law also filed a brief in support of banning depictions of illegal acts of animal cruelty. The Center is a leading academic think tank, which frequently weighs in on important governmental issues before the high court.

As explained in all of the briefs filed Monday, the Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act criminalizes depictions of animal cruelty that have no significant redeeming political, social, or artistic value. This is essentially the same test for stopping the production and sale of certain forms of human obscenity. There is no reason that videos depicting cruelty should get more First Amendment protection than pornography does.

Indeed there are strong arguments that such material, like child pornography, should not be entitled to any First Amendment protection at all. The makers and sellers of these videos are not making an argument or expressing a viewpoint—they are simply profiting from extreme cruelty, from predation on the weakest among us. This is a far cry from the values that the First Amendment is supposed to protect. We wouldn’t allow people to sell videos of people actually abusing children or raping women, and the same legal principles are at hand with malicious acts of cruelty, which are a felony in some form in every state.

Florida Attorney General McCollum should be commended for organizing Monday’s strong showing of the nation’s top law enforcement officers. When the Court convenes this fall, it won’t just hear arguments from animal advocates, it will be presented with a diverse cross-section of law enforcement officials, academics, and ideologically diverse public policy groups all saying the same thing: The trafficking in videos of extreme and illegal acts of animal cruelty finds no refuge in the First Amendment, and will not be tolerated by the American people.