The headline is that the Supreme Court has struck down animal cruelty laws, but having read this article (Supreme Court kills animal cruelty law – USATODAY.com) I’m not really sure that is what the Supreme Court did.
Seems to me that they struck down laws that outlawed the selling and distribution of videos depicting violence against animals… without really touching on the actual laws forbidding cruel and inhumane treatment of animals.
Which puts this in that gray area of conflict between what I personally believe/feel about the topic, and my rights as an American Citizen.
I am certainly against cruel and inhumane treatment of life-forms. Be they animal, plant, or something else (except for Fungus, a Kingdom of Life upon which I wage an active war). I also recognize that there are plenty of reasons why taking another life is justifiable. We do have to eat something, and nature mandates we fuel our bodies from the bodies of other organisms (again be they plant, animal, or something else). So I can’t be outright opposed to violence against life-forms (as to kill something is to commit an act of violence against it).
On the other hand, I value free expression, and being able to say what I want, and share the information I want to share, across any medium available to me. Personally I’d opt out of any exhibition of animal cruelty for entertainment’s sake. I do, however, acknowledge the validity of graphic depictions for educational purposes. Sometimes things are hard to watch, but they often convey powerful messages that would otherwise be impossible to convey. To see the suffering of something is a stronger call to action than to simply hear about it.
Thus I can’t advocate for the outright banning of such videos, as some are produced and distributed for good and sound reasons. Yet to permit this is to also open the door for people to exhibit these videos for less-than-(my)-ideal purposes.
It becomes one of those gray areas where the line is not very clear. So you end up with subjective judgments on what is acceptable and what is not, even though you may be talking about the exact same video depiction. As a government, charged with protecting people’s freedoms, I’m unconvinced you can effectively work it that way. Without clear-cut guidelines, you end up with people getting prosecuted for something they did with good intentions, and someone else who did the same thing for bad reasons getting off the hook. Good and Bad, are, of course, also subjective assessments of a situation. What’s good for me may not be good for you, and vice-versa. As individuals we each have our own views on what is morally right and ethically correct. My views are in no way more or less valid than yours.
All in all, I find this a very good example of what it means to have a free society. Sometimes we have to allow things in the name of our own freedom, that we are personally against. For me, this is one of those things. I probably won’t think much of you if you partake in such videos to be entertained. I will not, however, advocate that your right to do things that I find to be distasteful to be rescinded by your government.
I do hope that the Congress puts out a better-written law that can withstand constitutional limitations of power and ensure that we 1) define what we mean by cruel and inhumane treatment so that we can apply an objective measure to a subjective evaluation and 2) that we discourage the personal and corporate exploit and profiteering from the suffering of other sentient life-forms.
(DO NOT confuse Sentient with Sapient. SciFi has abused the terminology for decades. Sentient is anything that can sense and/or feel… which covers the vast majority of complex organisms on our planet. My personal judgment is that anything sentient should not be subjected to torture, and I view subjection to violence as a form of torture. Sapient is what they really mean when they talk of how the crew of the Enterprise seeks out ‘sentient’ life in the Galaxy… Sapient as in Homo-Sapien… it means something along the lines of wise.. sapient organisms express wisdom… Also, do not fall into the trap of thinking that the human capacity for sentience and sapience are the benchmark for whether something has it or not. Our sentience, and our sapience to a higher degree, are more evolved than most other organisms. There are, however, numerous examples of “lower-life-forms” that exhibit traits of sentience and sapience that seem rudimentary and primitive compared to ours, but are nevertheless present in the organism. There are also examples, albeit fewer, or organisms whose sentience and sapience are very close to, or level with, our own. That’s why Dolphins are to be treated as non-human persons. They’re sentience and sapience are on par with our own.)