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Katie Jordan

ENG 111

Mr. Weinkam

22 October 2009

Animal Cruelty v. Free Speech:


A Rhetorical Analysis

Should videos displaying acts of animal cruelty be protected under the Freedom of

Speech? This question will be heavily argued in the Supreme Court (U.S. v. Stevens) as

the United States awaits the possibility of another exception to the First Amendment1.

Existing exceptions include obscenity and child pornography, but should animal cruelty

media be added to the list? 2 At what point are there too many exceptions to the First

Amendment limiting America’s right to free speech?3 Two articles analyze this U.S. v.

Stevens case, arguing whether Robert Stevens, dogfighting film and video producer, should

be indeed found guilty of violating the law through these animal cruelty videos (he did not

directly participate in dog attacks, he only filmed them) or if he should be protected by the

First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. The articles also debate whether a federal law

for the purpose of prosecuting those who are involved with animal cruelty videos should

remain intact.4 Both articles are well argued, using mostly logos and pathos to support

their positions for or against animal cruelty videos as an act of free speech.5

In an article from www.opposingviews.com entitled “Supreme Court to Decide if

1
This sounds so professional…like a news broadcaster.
2
Better explanation of this.
3
Good insiteful questions that set up the reader for the argument in
this case.
4
I feel like a should lead up to my opinioned thesis. The intro is all
information about each article, and then I just drop my opinion. I
struggled with this paragraph for a long time though, so I couldn’t tell
you how to fix it necessarily.
5
Overall, well-organized paragraph if I do say so myself. Very clear too.

1
Dogfighting Videos are Free Speech,” the Humane Society of the United States uses

sufficient logos6 throughout the article to support their main claim to defend the rights of

animals. They believe promoting cruelty to animals in horrific, repulsive videos should

not be protected under the U.S. Constitution. The Humane Society is specifically

addressing the case of Robert Stevens, but also addressing animal cruelty videos in

general. There is a current law (the federal Depiction of Animal Cruelty Law) that was

passed in 1999 by congress in hopes to stop the creation, sales, and possession of media

containing animal cruelty. Those found guilty of any violations of the law can be fined

and/or imprisoned for no more than 5 years. Animal activists argue, “The federal

Depiction of Animal Cruelty Law is not only constitutional but urgently needed to stop the

abuse of animals.” They believe that by keeping this law instilled, animal abuse will

lessen because of the consequences against those who create, sell, and possess videos

containing it.7 They argue that this law does not go against the First Amendment. Clear

logic is used to explain why this law is certainly necessary to protect animals from

wrongful abuse when they go on to say8, “The law caused the crush video industry to

recede dramatically and no prosecutions of purveyors of crush videos have been needed in

the decade that the law was in force.9” Crush videos are a large industry of animal abuse

filled media where women in spiked heals skewer small animals10 and harm them in other

despicable manners, but they humane society explains that’s this law is crucial in reducing

the number of crush videos made, as evident by the lack of prosecutions in the past

6
LOGOS!
7
Good job incorporating the quote and then explaining it!
8
Good quote set up!
9
Quote really backs up what you’re trying to say! Way to go!
10
OUCH!

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decade11. Using more logos12, the Humane Society goes on to say, “The law has never

been used against documentary filmmakers, journalists or others engaging in legitimate

speech –– the only three prosecutions under the law have involved dogfighters who sold

videos in interstate commerce for profit.”13 This explains that the law has only been

needed, and in fact used, when dogfighters make illegal, abusive videos at the expense of

animals.14 This fact addresses the specific case of Robert Stevens. Stevens produces

videos of dogfights, and in the opinion of the Humane Society, he is therefore enabling

this cruel industry. This explains why animal activists are fighting to keep this law

intact15. The Humane Society logically argues why the law should be in place by

describing past incidences and using valid explanations to back up their main point that

Stevens should not be protected under the First Amendment.16

Similar to the Humane Society’s article, the New York Times article “Animal

Cruelty and Free Speech” uses significant logos17 to argue the other side of this case,

claiming that the federal Depiction of Animal Cruelty Law is unconstitutional. The article

insists Stevens should be protected under the First Amendment. The author explains, “The

federal appeals court reversed his conviction, ruling that the federal law under which he

was prosecuted is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court should uphold that well-reasoned

decision.” This article addresses the fact that the federal appeals court reversed Stevens’

11
Really good explanation
12
LOGOS!
13
Good quote…solid logic there.
14
Way to explain the quote!
15
Gosh, by now I’m kind of blow away with how well I wrote this paper…
I thought I remembered it being really unclear. Apparently I fixed that.
16
This paragraph is an essay in itself. I need to make it two paragraphs.
Possibly separate it when I go on to talk about a different quote using
logos.
17
LOGOS!

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original conviction, and they believe with good reason18. The author argues that another

reversal by the Supreme Court would disagree with the U.S. Constitution, just as the
19
federal appeals court declared. Also, the author does not try to illogically argue that

cruelty to animals is a good thing; instead, he addresses that animal cruelty is in fact

horrible and despicable. The fact that this article addresses the opposing side’s view in this

manner only makes the argument stronger20. The author argues that since Stevens only

captured these acts on film and did not partake in them, he should be protected under the

First Amendment. He says, “Some of the material in this case is truly stomach-churning.

There are people who enjoy watching animals being tortured and killed.” He understands

the horror behind torturing animals, but explains that isn’t pertinent in this case because

Stevens never committed any animal abuse himself. He addresses the other side,

strengthening the main claim, yet logically explains why his side is right. He uses logos to

go on to say, “This [animal abuse]21 is not the only deeply offensive speech protected by

the Constitution. Nazis are allowed to march, and racists are allowed to spew racism.” He

uses the fact that other forms of unpopular speech are protected under the Constitution to

claim that videos displaying equally horrible things (animal abuse) should not be any

different22. This is a very effective point and use of logos to support his claim by

addressing the opposing side before crushing its argument23.

18
Good job setting up quote and explaining it after.
19
This next part (in blue) is not distinctly about logos, therefore you
should put it in it’s own paragraph. It’s a new point. Put it after this
logos paragraph.
20
Good observation!....but it needs to be in it’s own paragraph after this
logos paragraph.
21
Way to clarify!
22
Good explanation of quote!
23
You’re Sure right! But maybe put one more sentence before here to
better wrap up this paragraph.

4
Although both the Humane Society’s article “Supreme Court to Decide if

Dogfighting Videos are Free Speech” and the New York Times article “Animal Cruelty

and Free Speech” use significant logos to support their main arguments, both articles

slightly24 incorporate pathos25. Just the topic animal cruelty that both articles discuss uses

emotional appeal without going into explicit detail. The Humane Society’s article says,

“Stevens apparently shipped three dogs to Japan for the fights shown in one video. Some

of the fights last for more than an hour, and the dogs are bloodied and suffering

throughout.” Steven’s video captures horrific animal cruelty. Explicit details about what

exactly happens to the dogs is not given, but the idea that the dogs are suffering and

bleeding triggers an emotional response26. The Humane Society is using an underlying

warrant27 that people are against animal cruelty as a basis of the pathos used in the article.

Prompting this emotional response for readers strengthens their argument. On the other

hand, the New York Times article uses a slightly more detailed explanation of animal

cruelty in crush videos, “There is also, the federal government’s brief says, a market for

‘crush videos’ in which women trample small animals with their bare feet or while

wearing high-heeled shoes, images that some viewers are said to find sexually arousing28.”

It is surprising that the author in this article uses the same pathos as the humane Society’s

article29, explaining that animals are unexplainably tortured in these crush videos. This

author also addresses the fact that this abusive material sexually arouses some viewers,

24
Don’t need this word. Awkward. Really unnecessary and takes away
from your paper.
25
PATHOS!
26
Good quote and good job effectively explaining how the pathos
affects the reader.
27
WARRANT!
28
Sick!
29
Interesting observation

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knowing that the reader would initially be drawn into taking the Humane Society’s side.

This statement gives the reader a lot of sympathy for the animals using pathos that might

be misunderstood as helping the opposing argument, but is actually used to support

Stevens and Free Speech30. *By addressing the sympathy many people naturally possess

for abused animals, his argument is strengthened. The author focuses on why people

should not let that sympathy for abused animals direct their opinion of Stevens’ case.

Stevens was not directly involved with these horrific actions, and should not be punished

for publishing “unpopular material”.

The Humane Society’s article best conveys pathos by explaining crush videos in

even more vivid detail, “…including so-called ‘animal crush’ videos where women in

stiletto heels crush, impale, and even burn small animals in order to titillate viewers.”

This use of pathos explicitly grabs the reader’s sympathy for animals, for these crush

videos are described with such horrific, descriptive word choice.31 As one can see, this

same explanation of crush videos was also explained in the New York Times article, yet

this article uses the pathos within the explanation of crush videos in a different way. The

Humane Society seems to describe crush videos in a more ghastly manner, using words

like “burn” and “impale”, to trigger a more severe emotional response from the reader. By

using more details when describing crush videos, one might conclude that the New York

Times article left out that kind of detailed explanation on purpose or that the Humane

Society’s article embellished the details of the crush videos on purpose. Both articles

twist this description to support their main argument32. Whether the Humane Society’s

article was more detailed or not, both of these articles efficiently use pathos to convey
30
Good transition!
31
Good set up, quote, and explanation.
32
Yes they do, good point.

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their argument; therefore, based on the efficiently used pathos and logos in these articles, I

cannot conclude that one is argued better than the other, after all, this is a Supreme Court

dispute and both sides have a legitimate case.

The final support for both articles’ argument is the main reason why I cannot reach

a conclusion to whether one argument is better argued than another33. The articles’ claims

are both logically explained and well supported. The Humane Society’s final support

says, “Cruelty to animals is a serious social and legal concern to Americans, and, as with

children, the animal victims cannot defend themselves. There’s no speech at risk here––

just the most appalling forms of cruelty known to humanity.34” They argue that cruelty to

animals will drastically continue if the Supreme Court does not realize that animals cannot

protect themselves and they need this law in place in order to subside the abuse35. Logos36

and pathos37 are used here to conclude. Logos is used to emphasize why Stevens cannot

be protected under the First Amendment, for the animal videos are solely depicting cruelty

and are not an issue of Free Speech. Using words such as “appalling” when describing

animal abuse is a good use of pathos. The reader is left with an immense emotional
38
response and desire to help all the defenseless animals. On the other hand, the New

York Times article uses logos and warrants to explain the final support for the author’s

main claim. He says, “All 50 states have laws against animal abuse. The best way to fight

animal cruelty is to enforce these laws more vigorously and to increase the penalties.
33
I think I should have tried to come to a conclusion. That’s what I’d do
with another revision.
34
Powerful quote
35
Good quote explanation
36
LOGOS!
37
PATHOS!
38
You need a new paragraph here for the other article…why did you
feel the need to put really long paragraphs in this paper that shouldn’t
even be all one paragraph? This I wonder.

7
Anyone with an ounce of decency should be tempted to ban animal-abuse videos, but

anyone with an appreciation for the First Amendment understands why we cannot39.”

Again, this author is addressing the other side’s stance on the topic and giving advice on

how to help the abuse problem. However, he still stresses the importance of protecting

Stevens under the First Amendment. The author uses logos to explain that the laws against

committing animal cruelty should be enforced stronger rather than using the

unconstitutional federal Depiction of Animal Cruelty Law to convict the people solely

videotaping the gruesome abuse. The author also addresses the reader in a way where he

assumes they think animal abuse to be horrendous. Through this warrant, the author is

able to make a convincing argument for the sake of the First Amendment. Both articles’

final statement addresses the claims for that particular side well, only making the decision

more difficult of which article is better argued40.

One’s initial reaction might be to protect the animals and eliminate all videos

containing animal abuse, convicting Stevens in the process, because that is the initial

emotion response for many, but the case must be looked at objectively in terms of Free

Speech. In the courtroom, the final verdict for the case must be decided by the logical

arguments presented by both sides, showing the importance of logos in both articles. The

Supreme Court must decide whether Stevens was in violation of the federal law or if he is

protected by Free Speech; they cannot solely go with the emotional response, which is

what makes this case so difficult. The pathos in the articles uses the emotion response for

the abused animals well to support their arguments, even though they are on opposing

sides, but it is the logos in the articles that best supports each article’s position on this

39
Another powerful quote
40
Strong sentence! Good job

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case. One could conclude that the New York Times article was better argued because the

author address the other side’s view, yet the Humane Society’s article was also extremely

well argued in terms of logos. This is why I cannot make a distinct decision to whether

one is argued better than the other. This case is still being addressed in the Supreme

Court41. A verdict has not been publicized42.

Bibliography

Editorial. New York Times 5 Oct. 2009. The New York Times. 5 Oct. 2009. Web. 7 Oct.
2009. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/opinion/06tue2.html?_r=1>.
The Humane Society. "Supreme Court to Decide if Dogfighting Videos are Free Speech."
Opposing Views. 5 Oct. 2009. Web. 7 Oct. 2009.
<http://www.opposingviews.com/articles/opinion-supreme-court-to-decide-if-
dogfighting-videos-are-free-speech>.

41
This conclusion paragraph is kind of crappy compared to the rest of
your paper. Keep a focus on rhetoric, not who is right, because after
all, this is a rhetoric paper!
42
Find out what happened yet???