An Arizona senator on Tuesday pledged to quickly take up the issue of animal crush videos -- disturbing films posted and sold online that feature the crushing death of defenseless animals.
The issue made headlines earlier this year when the Supreme Court overturned a ban on the sale of crush videos. The law -- enacted in 1999 -- was far too broad, the justices ruled, and could ban things like hunting videos. The court left the door open, however, for Congress to tackle the issue again.
In late July, the House passed another bill banning the sale of the videos, and the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday said it would address crush videos as quickly as possible.
"This is an issue that the Congress wants to deal with as quickly as we can," Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, said during a hearing on the issue. The Senate is working with the House to "craft a ban that prohibits this extreme animal cruelty" that will survive judicial scrutiny, he said.
Nancy Perry, vice president for government affairs at the Humane Society, pushed for another federal ban, pointing to evidence that the 1999 ban helped to significantly decrease the number of crush videos on the market.
"In 1999, Congress banned crush video sales, and they all but disappeared," Perry said. When the court overturned the ban in April, there was a resurgence "almost immediately," she said, with some crush-oriented Web sites popping up within a month.
Perry provided some alarming testimony about the content of these videos. They "appeal to a particular sexual deviancy," she said, and often feature women in high heels stomping on small animals that have been tied up and cannot escape.
"The anonymity of the Internet provides fuel for the creation of these videos," Perry said. Adding to the problem is the fact that the videos rarely show the faces of the people featured, focusing instead on their feet and animals being tortured.
Though every state has animal cruelty laws on the books, it is difficult to prosecute because identifying people in the videos is so difficult, she said. A federal law that goes after the sale of these videos, therefore, would be more effective, Perry argued. "The nature of the business is responsive to federal law."
"In the investigations we have undertaken, we are shocked at the volume of videos that are now available," she said. "A single Web site can have links to multiple other Web sites" and so on.
The committee also heard testimony from Dr. Kevin Volkan, chair and professor of the psychology program at California State University Channel Islands. He said that, like those who engage in pedophilia, people who are drawn to crush videos are "notoriously difficult to treat." They also rarely seek treatment unless forced, so there is a "strong commercial market for crush videos that can be watched in secret."
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