(ANIMAL CRUELTY/ANIMAL ABUSE) For over a decade, the legal state of animal crush videos—Internet clips of scantily clad women mutilating small animals—has been hotly debated in the local and federal courts. The videos generally feature small, live animals, such as kittens, puppies, mice, and rabbits, being slowly tortured in horrific ways.

Viewers watch the animals scream in agony as they are burned or skinned alive, cut with pruning sheers, nailed to the floor, beaten, and stabbed. The perpetrators are most often young women wearing lingerie and masks to hide their identity.

The videos are made specifically for a small niche market of individuals who find sexual gratification in the mutilation of animals. The demand for these fetish videos results in hundreds of animal deaths per month. One actress even claimed she killed two animals a day in production of the animal crush films.

Cute Kitten Cat Pet Grieving
Small animals like kittens are often subjected to torture in animal crush videos. Photo credit: NPR

Stopcrush.org, an organization dedicated to ending the obscene interest in animal crush videos, writes on their website:

“It is not as difficult as one might believe, to find websites that house animal crush videos on the internet. Some mask themselves within pornography websites where minors can access these materials with the click of a mouse button.

Freedom of speech has its limits when it promotes violent criminal acts and places a society in danger. Please realize that those who are capable of such acts of violent behavior, do not always limit themselves to brutality against animals.”

In 2010,  President Obama enacted a law banning the videos. The Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act criminalizes the creation, sale, and marketing of these specific kinds of videos, which lawmakers have labeled as “obscene.” Crimes under this act can result in penalties of up to seven years in prison.

The act induced backlash from advocates and creators of the videos who claimed production of the films is an enactment of their first amendment freedom of speech.

In some cases, puppies are also victim to this cruel craze.

In April, Stephanie Hird was arrested for her participation in an animal crush video. She was charged with five counts of animal cruelty.

According to the Naples Daily News, court documents filed last year also identify Hird as the woman who shot and killed rabbits with an air rifle at point-blank range in a porn video filmed in Lee County, Florida. She has not been charged in that case.

Another actress, Sara Zamora, was also arrested in April for her alleged part in the same films. Zamora faces nine felony counts after allegedly committing extreme acts of animal cruelty on camera. The investigation into their films was launched after PETA heard about the videos and called police.

Rabbits are also subjected to cruelty in animal crush videos.

Despite the blaring cruelty of these videos, participants receive very little punishment.

Back in 2002, the Guardian noted, “Although the videos have been around for some time in America, there have been only a handful of prosecutions for producing them, chiefly because of the difficulty of identifying the women who do the crushing.”

The U.S. legislation that was passed in 2010 has struggled to make headway since it was considered too broad a ruling, and therefore, a violation of freedom of speech. Several charges against these cases of animal cruelty have been dropped because of this “free speech” obstacle, which has resulted in the release of multiple criminals involved in the video production.

Such was the case with Ashley Nicole Richards, the first person to be arrested for animal crush production after decapitating a puppy on camera. Five of her seven charges were dropped to protect her first amendment rights. You can read her full story here, but please note that the article contains graphic images.

“It’s certainly horrifying. I mean these are sadistic people inflicting gruesome suffering on innocent and vulnerable and helpless animals,” PETA’s Cruelty Casework director Stephanie Bell told CBS Miami.

PETA’s fight against animal crush videos is attempting to put pressure on law enforcement and the legal system to end the production of this material. You can help PETA and Stopcrush.org’s mission to put an end to these inhumane practices.

Visit Stopcrush.org for more information on how to do your part and sign the petition to stop animal crush videos in the U.K.

— Kayla Newcomer, exclusive to Global Animal