Children need protection from crush videos

October 15, 1999
By Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-Ventura County)
Columnist
In the Midwest, a boy cut off the heads of dogs and cats and displayed them on stakes in his yard. In the Northeast, another boy stuffed dogs and cats into orange crates, then shot arrows through the boxes. The first boy was Jeffrey Dahmer, a man who progressed from cutting up animals to cutting up humans and eating them. The second is Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, who killed 13 women before his capture.These are not isolated cases. Ted Bundy, David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz, Ted "Unabomber" Kaczynski, and Kip Kinkel, who killed his parents and two schoolmates in a bloody rampage, all began by torturing animals. Experts are seeing a disturbing trend between animal abuse and human abuse.Tom Connors, a Ventura County deputy district attorney, believes people abuse animals for the same reason they abuse people: it's a method of control and dominance.It's a short step from one to the other.Last week (September 30), the House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee conducted a hearing on a bill I introduced to stop so-called crush videos. On the videos, women slowly torture and crush small animals to death. The cruel and inhumane videos are advertised and sold through catalogs and over the Internet, which is a favorite medium of exploration of our children.We do not want our children exploring crush videos on the Internet or anywhere else.Although abusing animals is already illegal under state laws, prosecuting creators of animal abuse videos has proven difficult. Ventura County District Attorney Michael Bradbury brought this problem to me after attempting to prosecute a Thousand Oaks video maker. The roadblocks he faced: an inability to identify the "actress" in videos because often only her legs are shown; proving the act on the video occurred within the statute of limitations; and no laws to prohibit the production, sale or possession of such videos.My bill is narrowly tailored to add teeth to state laws. It would prohibit the creation, sale or possession of a depiction of illegal animal cruelty in interstate commerce for commercial gain. The nation's leading constitutional attorneys helped me draft the bill with protection of the First Amendment in mind. During the hearing, it became clear we had bipartisan support to make the bill tough on animal abusers and solid enough to withstand a constitutional challenge.
Crust tapes sell for up to $300. Taking the profit out of it will curtail their trade, a trade many believe should be stopped. Actor Mickey Rooney spoke in favor of the bill during a recent press conference and in subsequent television interviews. Actress Loretta Swit testified eloquently in favor of the bill at the Crime Subcommittee hearing. Forty-nine of my colleagues from both sides of the congressional aisle have cosponsored the bill. It has the support of the Doris Day Animal League and the Humane Society, among other groups.Ending the distribution of crush videos will not solve all our societal problems. But it is a step toward lessening the violent depictions to which our children are exposed. After years of study, Dr. George Gerbner, dean emeritus of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, concluded that one of the main causes of violent behavior in children is the viewing of violent programming. Criminologist Jack Levin's three-year study concluded that animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violence against humans. They are also more likely to damage property and use drugs. The FBI, U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice consider animal cruelty to be one of the early warning signs of potential violence by youths.Crush videos are the culmination of these frightening trends.Our children must be protected from sick minds who produce and profit from crush videos. Children must be free to roam the Internet for all the wonderful knowledge this modern marvel contains without parents being fearful that their impressionable minds will stumble onto disgusting acts with disturbing consequences.My bill will protect the defenseless animals killed in these videos. More importantly, it will protect our children from disturbing images that could haunt them the rest of their lives.



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