Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

October 25, 1999

In search of a cause
Meaningless, politically correct legislation fails to help Americans

Members of the United States Congress are often like crusaders in need of a cause. When a cause is not readily available, or those that are do not meet well-established standards of political correctness, congressmen are willing to create one to suit their needs.

Such was the case last week when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives -- which has yet to pass a meaningful tax cut, reduce the number of regulations endured by small businesses and farmers, or even slow the growth of federal spending -- passed legislation purporting to end the "depiction of animal cruelty." Of course, animal cruelty is a serious issue, and one that speaks volumes about the morality of an individual and culture.

According to the sponsors of the legislation, there is a rampant problem of animals being videotaped while dying cruel, unspeakable deaths. These videotapes are then allegedly sold to people with a penchant for watching such a repulsive activity. The legislation -- which passed the House -- would make it illegal, the Congress was told, to possess such a video if the intent of the maker was to appeal to such an odd fetish.

And while it is difficult to risk being seen as "insensitive" to animal cruelty, it must be said: this is a complete sham. All 50 States have laws against violence and cruelty to animals, which is more than adequate to deal with any alleged acts of cruelty. But even worse, this bill was so poorly written, it opens a Pandora's box, or, if one will pardon the pun, it is a can of worms.

For instance, the Section 1, Part A, of the legislation states that a penalty of five years in jail will be assigned to "whoever knowingly possesses a depiction of animal cruelty with the intention of placing that depiction in interstate commerce." How do you prove intention? This is purely subjective, not the narrowly written law as supporters claimed in the zeal to pass something that would make them appear sensitive to the plight of Hollywood stars also need of a cause.

But doesn't Congress have more serious, more pressing, issues to address? America's educational system continues its downward spiral, our economy is staggering, the trust funds continue to be raided, and our taxes continue to rise. But rather than address issues that require principled votes and a devotion to liberty, Congress seems only interested in providing politically correct, feel-good legislation.

But one wonders how long America will feel good about ridiculous initiatives such as this "animal cruelty" bill. I have seen some pretty violent ads on television of killing cockroaches, could these be endangered? I am not a very good fisherman nor a hunter, but I have been a few times. From a certain perspective, it is a violent thing to see a kingfish pulled from the sea, hooked by the mouth, thrown on the deck and left to suffocate; and yet this can be seen on a variety of fishing shows each week on television. Backers of the legislation say these shows will not be affected: how do we know for sure? There are hunting films on television in which animals are brutally shot or trapped. Maybe people are delighting in looking at the cruelty or the killing of animals on television even though they are sporting or fishing shows. Do we close those down?

If Congress were eager to address the issue of "cruelty," then perhaps the ongoing trampling of the Constitution would be a good place to start. There certainly is a market for people eager to watch our liberties trashed. Or, if Congress is so concerned about brutality, why not finally address the brutal assault on privacy experienced daily by American citizens?

But those are real problems affecting many Americans, so the likelihood of Congress taking them seriously is abysmally small. Perhaps next week Congress will consider legislation to shield our borders from space invasion. Or maybe we will consider legislation to protect the dragon from over-eager slayers.

We can be most certain, however, that when ready to address a cause, Congress can be counted upon to create one -- no matter how meaningless, unreasonable, or potentially disastrous, it might be.