Animal Crushing: What it Is & Why We Have to Look.

Via Stephanie Vessely
on May 19, 2013
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Little One

We don’t show up on our mats and cushions so we can stay asleep, we do it so we can look at what arises.

This week Houston Press ran a cover story entitled, “Open Season: Do Laws Against Animal Crushing Videos Violate Free Speech?

It details the recent story about Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Wayne Justice, the first people to be charged under the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010. The Act “criminalizes the creation, sale, and marketing” of crush videos—videos that depict animals being tortured to death by humans. As if that’s not bad enough, the videos are apparently produced to satisfy the sexual fetishes of those who watch them.

Richards and Justice were charged after a video in which Richards tortured and killed a cat made its way to PETA. In it, Richards is dressed in a black bra, shorts and heels and “flaunts her assets” for the camera as she first immobilizes, then tortures and eventually kills a cat.

You can read the full description of the video here, but be warned, it’s graphic.

As I read the story all I could think was thank goodness these people were now going to be punished.

Except, as it turns out, they weren’t. To be punishable, the law requires a finding of obscenity. A federal judge ruled that the charges against Richards and Justice violate the First Amendment because no such obscenity is found in the videos.

If that’s not the definition of obscene, then what is?

According to article, for there to be obscenity, the videos must “portray sexual conduct in a patently offensive way.” The judge in this case determined that “the acts depicted in animal crush videos may be ‘patently offensive’ under community standards, but under no set of community standards does violence toward animals constitute ‘sexual conduct.'”

The case was dismissed, and the two weren’t charged. However, as of May 17th, an update to the story stated that Richards and Justice are still in custody and that animal cruelty charges will be filed in the case.

As I read this story, I struggled with whether or not to share it. The concept of animal crushing is new to me, so I assumed it might be new to others. And in the interest of being aware, mindful citizens, we should know about these types of things.

But I’ve caught some flak recently for repeatedly writing about animal abuse and rights issues. From what I’ve heard, this stuff is a real downer.

Trust me, I know.

But I’ve also gotten a fair amount of positive feedback—people who have thanked me, and others who have encouraged me to keep doing what I’m doing.

So it was with these mixed messages that I toiled over how to approach this story. Of all the stories of animal abuse I’ve read over the years, this one has disturbed me in a different way.

If you take the time to read the whole thing, and to inform yourself about animal crushing, you’ll find a very dark and incomprehensible part of the human psyche.

It makes me very uncomfortable and fearful that people like Richards and Justice take pleasure in this sort of thing. Then I got it.

It’s because of this discomfort that I have to share this story.

I understand why people don’t want to read or hear about stories like this. It’s much easier and definitely more comfortable to look the other way. I know I would be happier if I shut my laptop and went to do something else.

But it’s because it’s difficult and uncomfortable that I know I have to look at it.

I understand how it feels when you read or see something—how once you know it—you can’t “un-know” it. I feel uncomfortable and sad every time I hear or see evidence of animal abuse. It never gets easier.

But that feeling is the same one that tells me this isn’t the time to shut down—this is the time to open up, to really feel and to see what the emotion has to tell us.

Usually, when we have the overwhelming desire to not look at something it’s a good clue that we need to look at it.

Isn’t this why we practice?

We don’t show up on our mats and cushions so we can stay asleep, we do it so we can look at what arises. Whether it’s a difficult pose and our thighs are burning, or learning about people who stomp on cats with their stilettos, our practice is about learning to stay—both on and off the mat.

Just as we look at our own shit, we have to look at the shit around us too.

Ultimately, the story about Richards and Justice is not about us or about how we feel. It’s about the animals, and what they deserve. We owe it to them to hear their stories.

We have to bear witness.

The animals being treated this way don’t have the voices we do. We need to have conversations about people like Richards and Justice, and about god-awful things like animal crushing, because it’s part of the world we’ve created, and because in bringing awareness to these issues, hopefully one more person can be reached.

We have to look at these things because sometimes it’s the only thing to do. With this story, I don’t have any messages of compassion or ideas about how people come to be that way. With this story, I’m lost. Maybe if we can have a conversation about it, we can come up with some answers, some solutions.

But we will never be able to stop the atrocities that are committed every day if we aren’t willing to look at them, much less talk about them.

It’s in the uncomfortable that we learn and grow. It’s in the uncomfortable that change takes place.

In The Great Work of Your Life, Stephen Cope says,

“Each of us feels some aspect of the world’s suffering acutely. And we must pay attention. We must act. This little corner of the world is ours to transform. This little corner of the world is ours to save.”

Whether our cause is animals,  hunger or rainforests, we can’t look the other way. Read the stories, sign the petitions and let your voice be heard.

Because nothing has ever changed by someone turning their head the other way.

Or, in the words of Dr. Seuss, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” ~ The Lorax




 Like elephant animal rights on Facebook.

Ed: Kate Bartolotta


About Stephanie Vessely

Stephanie Vessely lives in Denver, Colorado and is somewhere in the middle of a lifelong love affair with words. She feels a little out of place a lot of the time and thinks writing about herself in third person is awkward. She is regularly saved by yoga and is searching for Truth. These are a few places she’s found it: the swaying of tree branches, the ocean, the laughter of her niece and nephew and her own heart, when she can be still enough to hear it. She’s an aspiring vegan who loves travel, hates small talk and hopes to help save the animals. Someday, she’ll learn how to tap dance. In the meantime, she keeps scribbled secret notebooks and knows everything is as it should be, even if she has a hard time remembering it. Follow her on Facebook or visit her website.


35 Responses to “Animal Crushing: What it Is & Why We Have to Look.”

  1. dailydustings says:

    I have known about this issue for sometime, and it is beyond comprehensible. And yet, we must try and comprehend or at least not just turn the other way. The obvious issue is the unbelievable amount of cruelty that humans are capable of, but on a deeper leve, a deep deep lack of compassion in this world from human being to human being. This is a complex and F'd up topic. A topic that calls for action. Thank you for sharing. Bravo for your bravery…as it surely isn't the most popular of issues.

  2. Uma Iyo says:

    Thank you for posting. I had NO idea! What does free speech have to do with torture & death of innocents for kicks, sexual? Or otherwise? Is burning the flag more sacred? Since when is cloth more precious than life? God's creatures one & all &c. …
    Thank you for posting. Will distribute. Will act.

  3. chakras yoga says:

    OK this makes me crazy. I cannot read the details right now because it will haunt me all night but these kinds of things just make my heart hurt. It troubles me so much to see these parts of human nature and frightens me to think what is out there. What is wrong with humans? How can we stop this? any ideas? where do we start? just knowing about it is one thing but putting a stop to it is another.
    thanks for sharing. I will pass it along.. but feel helpless

  4. Thekarmikbob says:

    Please keep posting items like this. Truth sets us free, even if we don't enjoy dealing with the realities of it.

  5. Stephanie says:

    I spend about 30 minutes every morning signing petitions and I'm constantly amazed at how effective they can be. There is a horrendous amount of animal cruelty in this world. We need to shift the the paradigm from believing we are the "rulers" of the earth to the "stewards" of the earth. Animals are sentient beings and deserve as much respect and protection as humans.

  6. Julie Tijerina says:

    Do we have to know about EVERY perversion of the human species? Keep some things to yourself. If you know how to build a pipe bomb, do you need to explain it to the world? Thank you for giving other people sick ideas and planting it in the heads of the rest of us. Go ahead and show the world the perversions under the header "trying to make the world a better place through awareness". I call bullshit. It's spreading violence by choosing to plant the seeds in others' heads. So, thank you for putting that visual in my head. One one millionth of the population have ever even considered this a past time and you just put it in thousands of other lightworkers. Can not one corner of our world be safe from violence?

  7. debbie says:

    Agreed Julie- well said…could not have said this any better – my thoughts exactly…

  8. Carissa says:

    Well I disagree with some posters…this is the TRUTH. It is happening in our world and this author has given us a very focused lense to LOOK at it. Plus she's given us some tools to try and stop it from continuing. This is real-live journalism Elephant Readers. As fellow beings we cannot turn away from these types of truths. Thank You Stephanie for having the courage to first look and see what is another example of Man's willful blindness to reality and, then secondly, for having the courage to try and make the rest of us look and try to effect a change. Very courageous.
    Of course I do not want to look or know or read about this sort of thing. It hurts on too many levels. But that hurt will only fester if I know about something this awful and don't try to do something. Even if that something is as small as sigining a petition.
    This article is a call to compassionate action. If you love your fellow beings how could you turn away? Try to stop the violence not pretend that naming it is the causation.

  9. Christine says:

    Uggg, this is actually making me physically sick to my stomach and I am not sure if the feeling is ruminating more from the actual act or the fact that our laws and government are so twisted. I have worked in the domestic violence field for many years and it is no new mystery to our courts that the very act of killing and torturing animals is the #1 red flag on the lethality scale for future violence/homicide towards other human beings. Even worse, these violent acts are clearly premeditated. Torturing and killing an innocent being for a period of time that lasts several minutes and to have no remorse is a sign of a psychopath and cold-blooded killer. PERIOD!

  10. Christine says:

    lack of education/awareness = ignorance+fear = violence

    It's a simple equation

  11. svessely says:

    Thanks dailydustings! This does call for action – though I admit I'm lost when it comes to what action to take. Awareness is the first step.

  12. svessely says:

    Thanks Uma!

  13. svessely says:

    I'm also at a loss about how to stop this. I think it's probably equal parts speaking up, getting involved and even exercising our own compassion muscles. I think some people have issues we can't comprehend – who knows what has to happen to a person for them to commit an act like this? Thanks for passing it along. Every little bit helps I think.

  14. svessely says:


  15. svessely says:


  16. svessely says:

    Thanks for your reply Julie. The thing is that "not one corner of our world" is safe from violence. To pretend otherwise, by not looking at what's happening, is to stay asleep when it comes to the realities of this world. In the elephant journal community, I think the majority of us are aiming to "wake up," and to help others do the same. I believe that awareness is always the first step to making a change. How could anything ever change if we weren't aware of the problems in the first place? I appreciate different perspectives, and you may call bullshit. But I wonder if your reaction to the post is the uncomfortable feeling I was trying to address. Either way, "spreading violence by choosing to plant the seeds in others' heads" wasn't even remotely the purpose of this post.

  17. svessely says:

    Thank YOU for your courage to look as well Carissa!

  18. svessely says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience Christine. That's another element of the story I left out.

  19. DawnaG says:

    Thank you, Stephanie, for having both the courage to put this out there, and the heart to want to stop it. I have known about this sick twist in the human psyche for many years, and have kept it mostly to myself, because, who would believe it? The fact that snuff films (for that is what they are) can be protected under the canopy of the First Amendment is something that saddens and angers me tremendously. If we truly, truly want to make this world a better place-if we dedicate our practice to alleviate the suffering of others-then, those others MUST include non-humans as well. This is the keystone of ahimsa and compassion. As for people who accuse you of “planting seeds” of darkness, they need to rework their own conception of what this world contains. And yes, it SHOULD make people uncomfortable. No one should be able to rest peacefully until ALL beings are free to live without harming and being harmed. Rather than being a harbinger of the dark, I’d say with perfect conviction that you are shining much light into very dark places. And for that, I thank you! We live to fight another day! Onward!

  20. Meagan McCrary says:

    Brilliantly written. And spoke deeply to my heart. I have never heard of animal crushing and immediately wanted to stop reading for the sick feeling overcame my entire being… but I’m glad I did. And I love the Stephen Cope quote, puts things in perspective. Thank you

  21. Meagan McCrary says:

    To say that writing something like this only gives more ideas for people to act on (to me) is like saying women should be completely covered up or men will be compelled to rap her or that we shouldn’t have sex education in class becuase that will only give kids the idea to have sex. Guess what it’s all happening anyway, just becuase you and I have never heard of this doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Not “looking” is only fueling the problem, awareness is powerful, but then again ignorance is bliss. If you never want to be saddened by the world, yeah it’s more comfortable to keep your eyes shut to these horrific acts. I also fully believe we are each responsible for our own actions and to blame and chasticize the author for spreading violence is out of line with my beliefs. Everyone also has the freedom to stop reading anything at anytime. We are all responsible for the way we feel (not always a pretty realization).

  22. nyl says:

    I appreciate your post. The anguish and upset voiced by Julie is understandable but the bigger more important focus is not that her notion of a safe corner is upended or that this info will be fuel for other sick minds. It's that the healthy safe and protecting minds will read it and be aware that this is something that needs love and energy. Anything can grow from seeds. Good and evil; but here especially the power of love and change will bring people to awareness and be on alert for this kind of totally ill minded act. It's horrific and there a number of videos out where kittens are killed by women in stilettos. I can't even wrap my head around anyone (a woman !!) injuring a creature of innocence that is defenseless……but I can go ahead and sign a petition and keep informed and help impose change in how we handle these cases.

  23. nichole d says:

    Thank you for sharing, Stephanie. I was afraid to read this after seeing the title, but realize that the only way we can make a difference is to be informed. It was difficult to read and acknowledge that this sort of thing actually happens, however it feels good to contribute another name to the petition. Thanks again, Stephanie.

  24. crissy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I had never heard of anything like this before, and i read the whole article in the link as well. It made me sick. But I am thankful that you brought it to my attention so that I can do my part in preventing in any way possible, things like this happen

  25. svessely says:

    Thanks Meagan. I agree – not looking only makes it worse.

  26. svessely says:

    I love that! "This is something that needs love and energy. Anything can grow from seeds." YES!

  27. svessely says:

    DawnaG, your comment warms my heart. Thanks for joining in the fight.

  28. svessely says:

    Thank YOU for reading.

  29. svessely says:

    Thanks for reading and for signing. I know a lot of people who are afraid to read things after seeing the title – so you're not alone. But thanks for being brave and reading it anyway. I agree – we can't change anything if we aren't informed.

  30. svessely says:

    Thanks Crissy!

  31. Robin says:

    No, Julie, because there is no corner of our world that IS safe from violence. In my generation domestic violence was put it that category of secrecy. That's called denial and it happened even within individual homes as other abuses occurred. Now, because of awareness, people have acted and given hope to the abused and consequences to the abusers. It's folly and ignorance to believe that what we don't know doesn't exist.

  32. mia says:

    Well if ignorance is bliss then I hope you enjoy your "safe" corner of the world.

  33. Roni Dover says:

    The wold has a better chance at becoming free from violence with knowledge and action from people who are not afraid and are informed. Not from ignorant people like you who want to pretend nothing is wrong. You are part of the problem. Be a part of the solution, spread the word of the horrific evil that exists so people can recognize it and help stop it!

  34. Mai says:

    I just read over this and the comments. Regardless of the discomfort that some people feel which is compelling them towards blaming you for their disturbance in ignorance (btw who forced them to continue reading only their own curiosity) I’m glad I read this. I was on fb earlier today and saw that one of my “friends” liked a videoof this nature. A woman in green heels and a kitten doomed for the sado masochistic festishism. Unfortunately because fb decided that it’s important to play videos as they appear on your news feed I witnessed it and cried like a child. I found comfort in this post because someone out there is speaking about it. In the same way I questioned it. Why? Who? What can be done. Despite my high level of discomfort over what I saw I have to say thank you and your words will continue to shine light on what can only be described as one of the darker sides of this planet

  35. fred09red says:

    Animals are like little babies, they need protection and affection until they grow up enough to take over the protector`s role and take care of the house and the family`s safety. But until then, they deserve the best, like…, good food and medical care whenever needed. Because they are the most precious little things everyone would want to have them around the house.