Categories: Animal laws

USA: new federal law criminalizing an intentional act of animal crushing

Behind this new federal Act which has been passed by the Senate and which President Trump is expected to sign into law, there is a rather tortuous backstory which is highly confusing.

Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act — the PACT Act

I’m not sure I want to go into the legal complexities of this but let’s just say that there have been earlier attempts by the federal government to criminalise both the act of animal crushing and as a separate measure the videoing of that act and the distribution of the video.

As I understand it (1) this new Act is an amendment of an existing statute (Section 48 of title 18, United States Code) and (2) the existing law prohibits the distribution of videos of crushing animals commonly called ‘crush videos’. This left the general animal welfare law to cover the actual act of crushing animals. The situation was unsatisfactory and a new Act, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, plugs the gap of the existing law and makes it an offence for any person ‘to purposely engage in animal crushing in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States’.

In addition it seems that the new Act reinforces the illegality of the creation of animal crush videos, in making it unlawful for any person to knowingly create an animal crush if they know that it will be distributed or is distributed.

I have to say that having read the this amending Act I’m still confused. This might sound ridiculous but I genuinely am because this new Act seems to say it is a crime to engage in animal crushing (obviously it is) and it is a crime to make a video of that act with the intention of distributing the video for commercial reasons. But it appears not to ban the making of a video for personal use. If I have got it wrong and someone can correct me, please do so. Perhaps as the act of animal crushing is a crime it is impossible to create a video legally.

There are exceptions as well such as ‘visual depictions’ of the slaughter of animals for food and so on. I don’t see how these can apply because slaughtering animals for food can never be carried out by crushing the animals. I find the exceptions rather odd as well.

It has to be said, too, that a number of websites have got this entirely wrong in my opinion. There is no doubt in my mind that there is considerable confusion surrounding this new federal Act which you can read about online on the Congress.gov website by clicking on this link.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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