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Senate approves ban on animal cruelty videos

The US Senate [official website] unanimously approved a bill [text, PDF] Friday banning animal cruelty or "crush" videos. The House of Representatives [official website] approved the same ban [JURIST report] on Monday, and the provision is now being forward to President Barack Obama [official profile] for his signature. If the bill is signed into law, the creating, selling or distributing animal crush videos, which feature small animals being tortured or killed, will be a crime punishable with up to five years in prison. This is a revision of 1999 legislation [18 USC § 48 text] that was struck down by the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] in April. Specifically, the revised legislation more narrowly defines what constitutes a crush video, excluding videos depicting "customary and normal veterinary or agricultural husbandry practices," as well as videos of hunting, fishing or trapping.

Congress was forced to revise the act following the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Stevens [Cornell LII backgrounder], in which the 1999 law was struck down [JURIST report] for being substantially overbroad and therefore in violation of the First Amendment [text]. Legislators hope that the new amendments to the law will afford it greater enforceability and staying power in their efforts to ban crush videos. Following the Supreme Court's decision, animal rights activists focused on the narrowness of the ruling, as well as the dissent, and called on [JURIST comments] Congress to revise the law.

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