Okay, so not really on film, probably more like videotape or DVD, but the pun on the old song title was just hanging out there.
A recent story reported by Fastcompany.com, NPR, and ABC News tells the story of Robert Stevens. Robert is an independent filmmaker who compiled films of pit bull dogfights made in jurisdictions where dogfighting is legal, most notably Japan. He sold the films commercially to promote the proper care of pit bulls. For this, he received a jail sentence of 37 months, under a federal law that prohibits “knowingly selling depictions of animal cruelty, with the intention of placing them in interstate commerce” which was passed in 1999.
Robert appealed his case, and won on First Amendment grounds. The government compares these videos to obscenity, or “patently offensive conduct that appeals only to the basest instincts.” And so the case winds up in the US Supreme Court, where it is still being considered as of this writing as far as I can tell.
What I find disturbing here is that Robert’s sentence exceeds Michael Vick’s sentence for actually running a dogfighting ring. This is in effect saying that selling videos of legally conducted dogfights is a worse crime than actually running an illegal dogfighting ring. That, and I fail to see why Robert’s actions should be illegal. I do side with the appeals court here.
This does not change my viewpoint on dogfighting, however. I believe wanton animal cruelty such as staged dogfighting is despicable, which has been my view for the entirety of my adult life. I could go on and on about how I’ve always been an animal lover (I prefer cats to dogs). Suffice it to say, there are certain places such as Japan where it’s legal to stage dogfights, and it is equally their right to make the law what it is there as it is mine to condemn it.