In the first such trial in the U.S., a Virginia man who sells dogfighting videos worldwide is being prosecuted in Pittsburgh under a federal law banning videos showing cruelty to animals, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The law was motivated by a California effort to stop “crush videos,” in which women in spike heels slowly crush small animals to death for the sexual gratification of a bizarre subculture of fetishists. The 1999 federal law bars the “creation, sale or possession” of depictions of animal cruelty.
Robert Stevens, 64, of Pittsville, Va., is on trial. Stevens and his wife, Julie, are pit bull enthusiasts who advertised in an underground dogfighting journal and sold three dogfighting videos to undercover agents, including one that showed pit bulls attacking pigs. Stevens and his attorney, Michael Novara, argue that the videos are protected speech under the First Amendment because depictions of cruelty are legal if they have “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value.” “Let me say right now: We concede that animals are being injured in these videos,” Novara said; he insisted the videos are historical and educational.