When Taylor wrote about the new federal animal cruelty law earlier today, I’ll confess to being disappointed that he called it “dumb.” I suspect that the description of the bill provided in the Daily Mail wasn’t particularly clear. Also, one of the quotes from President Trump appeared to indicate that the focus of the bill was the so-called “crush videos” where sadists film themselves stomping on or otherwise cruelly murdering helpless animals.
It’s true that the new law is a companion measure to the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010, but Taylor interpreted that as meaning that only the specific “crushing” going on in the films was being made a federal crime. A better explanation is found in this piece at the New York Times. (Yes, I’m as shocked as any of you that I just typed that sentence.)
The bill, called the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, was introduced in the House this year by two Florida lawmakers — Representative Vern Buchanan, a Republican, and Representative Ted Deutch, a Democrat. It expands a 2010 law signed by President Barack Obama that banned videos that show animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled or subjected to other forms of torture.
Now, intentional acts of cruelty shown in the videos are also felony offenses.
The point is that the acts of cruelty on display in such videos as covered under the previous law are now a federal offense. But there doesn’t even have to be a video. This law isn’t specifically targeting only people making sadistic videos. It allows law enforcement to go after anyone engaging in such sickening, sadistic behavior. And it’s long been established that people who engage in animal torture are far more likely to progress to sadism against people.
Taylor also tried to point out that animal cruelty laws exist in the state and the District of Columbia already. While that statement is technically true, they vary massively from state to state. Some states have strong laws with stiffer punishments and decent funding for enforcement. Others carry little more than a slap on the wrist and animal control officers are few and far between. Illinois is generally considered to have the best laws in this are while Kentucky ranks as the worst.
While my friend Taylor is a staunch libertarian, sometimes the impulse to say “there are enough federal laws on the books” isn’t the best response. I’d prefer to see legislation protecting animals moving toward a more uniform level across the states. Having a federal backstop like this may be a step in that direction. As I mentioned earlier today in a story about the treatment of fowl and cattle in the production of foie gras and veal, animals don’t have any inherent rights, but we, as humans, do have the ability to assign them rights via legislation. And the right not to be tortured to death by sadists seems like the least we could do.