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      These Boots Are Made for... Torturing Animals These Boots Are Made for... Torturing Animals These Boots Are Made for... Torturing Animals

      These Boots Are Made for... Torturing Animals

      February 8, 2013
      Dave Schilling

      By Dave Schilling

      Associate Editor

      I have the unfortunate habit of reacting badly to negative stimuli. Well, more accurately, I react badly to all forms of stimuli. I cry when under the influence of narcotics, have irrational panic attacks over election results, and urinate in inappropriate places.

      My many physical and psychological handicaps prevent me from engaging in most career fields. I’m too weak for manual labor, too nervous for the gladiatorial contests of sports or politics, and too handsome to work at Starbucks. Writing is all I’ve got. I can stay indoors, keep to myself, and enjoy countless episodes of The Price is Right without interruption. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: I do not count the arrival of the Domino’s Pizza delivery man as an ‘interruption.’] In this persistent recession, the fact that I can comfortably support my lifestyle is shocking.

      Unfortunately, for Brent Justice and Ashley Nicole Richards of Houston, Texas, the only path to providing a steady income was to allegedly torture animals on video. Justice and Richards were recently indicted on federal animal-torture charges and, if found guilty, could face upwards of 45 years in prison and a max of $1.75 million in fines. This is one of the first instances of “crush” video makers being indicted after President Obama signed the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act into law in 2010. “Crush” is the cute cuddly nickname for animal-torture porn, and the Supreme Court had struck down a previous version of a law prohibiting it in 1999, claiming that it violated free speech protections. I’m still a bit hazy on how smashing a dog’s head with a hammer is speech, but then I also feel the same way about a corporation giving a million dollars to a presidential candidate. Clearly, I don’t know much about constitutional law. But now “crushing” animals is illegal, and Justice and Richards are in deep shit.

      The duo were allegedly torturing up to two animals per day in their Houston, Texas, home. Richards would pose nude or in a bikini with stiletto heels and mutilate insects, rabbits, mice, a pigeon, fish, lobsters, crabs, dogs, and kittens, according to the police.  I actually found one of these videos (I’m not going to link to it here), featuring a woman that appears to be Ms. Richards. After a series of expletive-filled threats and sinister close-ups of her large heels, the woman in question, a bedraggled-looking lady in a revealing dress, wields a knife in preparation for gutting two fish in her sink. In another video on a fetish website, Richards and a collection of other black women refer to themselves as “Ebony Crush Goddesses,” which is actually a little nickname I keep for my mother, though the only things she’s crushing is my ego. There’s no evidence to suggest this is a primarily black subculture, but as any porn lover knows, the term “ebony” is a search engine-optimization goldmine.

      One wonders exactly what type of person gets excited watching a fish dismembered or a lobster get smashed with a hammer. I pay $12.99 at Sizzler to do the very same thing to a lobster, so paying any more than that to simply watch doesn’t make much sense. I don’t even get to eat the lobster afterwards. It’s the animal-torture equivalent of watching a montage of all the quiet dialogue scenes from a Transformers movie.

      Porn is big business, bigger than most legitimate media industries. The best part for your average person is that profit can be made with little to no actual talent. A porn actress can make 2 to 3 thousand dollars for 20 minutes of what barely constitutes work. Unfortunately, most of the planet has already figured that out, which forces the porn entrepreneur to be more outrageous with their content. There’s plenty of midget porn, but gay black-midget horse porn is far more rare, which sends the price for the content through the roof. A viewer will pay a premium to see something they’ve never seen before. Of course, if it’s illegal, that renders the risk factor that much higher.

      How Justice and Richards were able to make money off these crimes for so long is a thorny question. According to the Humane Society, 1,880 animal-torture cases were reported to the media. While this is not a miniscule number, it’s not so overwhelming that cases of this horrifying nature should go unreported for so long. Justice and Richards had to perform their acts under a heavy shroud of secrecy. In many ways, their operation was similar to a terrorist group or drug cartel. Much was done to keep their activities a secret. PETA even refers to these crush-video networks as "cells," similar to how the US government refers to the associated splinter groups that make up al Qaeda. I’m not going so far as to compare Justice and Richards to Osama bin Laden, since Justice and Richards are not being charged with any violence against human beings, and I’m pretty sure bin Laden was a cat guy.

      In order to prevent detection, the videos are distributed as livestreams via private, peer-to-peer streaming services such as Skype or FaceTime. Justice and Richards would video chat with the paying customer, who would request various deviant acts such as stabbing the eye of a kitten with the heel of her stiletto, according to police. Apparently this vocation was lucrative enough for them to make videos for years.

      According to Stephanie Bell, Associate Director of Cruelty Investigation with PETA, a “concerned citizen” whose identity Bell was unable to share tipped the local Houston authorities and PETA off to the ongoing crimes. I asked Miss Bell what compels a person to abuse animals outside of the monetary gain. The psychological profile isn’t that far from the one that defines a serial killer or other run-of-the-mill sociopath. She described them as people who “enjoy victimizing others, being in control,” and that they usually were “hurt in their own childhood.”

      Now, I too was hurt in my own childhood. My mom persisted in making me wear bowties. I’m sure you can see how that led me to my particular profession. I flinch whenever a car door is closed and the sight of Tucker Carlson makes me break out in hives. I suppose if I was hurt a bit more, say, made to wear culottes or white after Labor Day, then I could have been an animal torturer. I pressed Ms. Bell for more details about parental and societal responsibility for these crimes. She pointed to the most common excuses given when people are confronted with early signs of sociopathic behavior towards animals. “Boys will be boys” and “he [or she] just doesn’t like cats” are used to explain away the cruelty of the young.

      Justice and Richards are currently awaiting trial, and Houston's animal-cruelty prosecutor Belinda Smith was recently transferred to the Special Victims Bureau of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Here’s to hoping we get a special episode of Law & Order: SVU dedicated to black people stepping on kittens.

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      Topics: animal rights, porn, Ashley Nicole Richards, Brent Justice

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