Fight Animal Cruelty Online Cruelty
Fight Animal Cruelty
The Internet delivers an astounding array of images and ideas into homes across the world. But not all of these images are particularly animal-friendly. In fact, some of what is being sold and shown online crosses into the realm of criminal activity. And in some cases, there are laws against showing and selling these images.
|- Twenty-one U.S. states have no legislation preventing zoophilia and bestiality.
- In August 2002, Missouri became the most recent U.S. state to enact an anti-bestiality/unlawful-sex-with-an-animal law.
- Please do not email us about BonsaiKitten.com. Click here to read our official statement.
The Crush Act
The Crush Act is a federal law that provides punishment, ranging in severity from a fine to five years in prison, for the display of acts of cruelty and sexual abuse intended for interstate commerce. "Crush" videos generally depict a woman, often in stiletto heels, stepping on small animals, typically rodents and kittens.
This statute, however, is only applicable to websites and videos in which actual abuse has been verified—and even more specifically, to sites and manufacturers that intend to sell the images across state lines (this includes via the Internet). Both criteria must be met. A website may display images of animal cruelty, as long as it is not charging visitors for access or otherwise selling the images. Likewise, it is legal to sell doctored photos or manmade images portraying acts of animal cruelty, as long as these images are purely fabricated and no legitimate abuse has been committed.
The notorious website Bonsaikitten.com was entirely immune to prosecution because it failed to meet either of the standards explained above. Bonsaikitten.com was a joke site that offered “rectilinear kittens” (kittens stuffed into glass jars) for “sale,” but provided no payment options or prices and, in reality, did not sell anything. In addition, the images were computer generated, so no live kittens were ever abused. Hoaxes and parodies like Bonsaikitten.com, no matter how offensive, are exempt from cruelty laws.
In November 2004, the ASPCA expressed outrage at a Texas man’s plan to allow the hunting of exotic animals on his ranch via the Internet. Users anywhere in the world would be able to log on to his website, pay a fee and, with the click of a mouse, aim and fire a weapon to kill an animal. Since then, legislation banning Internet hunting has been passed in several states. More recently, the federal Computer-Assisted Remote Hunting Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Please visit our Cruelty Glossary to learn more about Internet hunting.
Bestiality & Zoophilia
Not every state has addressed two other controversial forms of animal abuse: bestiality and zoophilia. Only 30 U.S. states have laws to address animal sexual abuse. All of these states list animal sexual abuse as a misdemeanor, although five also stipulate conditions under which it can be classified as a felony; in those cases the felony appears in tandem with the misdemeanor. The remaining 20 states have not criminalized animal sexual abuse at all, leaving residents free to engage in sexual relations with animals without fear of repercussions.
Zoophiles, individuals who develop romantic emotional attachments to animals, seem to have adopted a new approach to their legal problems. In an effort to make the matter a religious one, organizations such as the "First Church of Zoophilia" have been known to operate websites that offer membership and eternal salvation to those who venerate their "sacred animals." The now-defunct site's administrator, listed only as "Pastor Lykaon," likened modern zoophiles to persecuted religious minorities who have been denied their constitutional right to freedom of religion.
Such was the case with the late Mark Matthews, a Carl Junction, MO, resident who displayed his affection for his "wife," Pixel, on British television by making passionate love to her and admitting that he would like to father her children. Pixel is a horse. Missouri had no statutes at the time to prevent such activity, which enabled Matthews to share a trailer with his beloved equine. The state's bestiality law went into effect on August 28, 2002.
According the First Church of Zoophilia, Matthews was entitled to his animal proclivities under the U.S. Constitution.
"The First Church of Zoophilia actually has nothing to do with religion," says Cori Menkin, Esq., ASPCA Program Counsel. "The members of the First Church of Zoophilia are likely from a variety of different religions." Because one’s religious beliefs do not need to be sacrificed to join the First Church of Zoophilia, it is not classified a legitimate religion.
The courts have already determined that sexual practices do not equate to religious belief, most notably in the case of polygamy. Although some polygamists have attempted to argue for freedom-of-religion protection under the Constitution, the courts have maintained that such arguments are invalid.
"Zoophilia is no more a religion than polygamy," adds Menkin.
Although zoophilia and polygamy are each socially unaccepted practices, proponents of both have yet to convince the courts of their religious implications."While there may be other constitutional implications, freedom of religion is not one of them," Menkin reports.