The Supreme Court today announced its decision in United States v. Stevens, http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-769.pdf. I have not yet read the opinion. The Wall Street Journal gives a quick summary:
The Supreme Court struck down a federal law banning depictions of animal cruelty, voting 8-1 that the measure violated the First Amendment.
The law was inspired by sadistic "crush" videos, where women kill chicks or mice, but was written far more broadly to outlaw depictions of any animal cruelty that is unlawful.
Although the law included exceptions for serious journalistic or artistic works, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said the measure stretched too far....
Justice Samuel Alito was the lone dissenter. "The harm caused by the underlying criminal acts greatly outweighs any trifling value that the depictions might be thought to possess," he wrote of the dog-fighting videos.
My quick reaction is (1) I agree with Alito, and (2) it would appear a more narrowly worded statute would survive. The notion that depictions of this sort could have any redeeming value is theoretically viable but actually far-fetched. Although it might be heretical for a conservative to say so, we can worry too much about keeping the law stainless while the culture descends into filth. A culture that cannot say NO to this behavior, and mean it with criminal penalties, is a culture in big trouble.