Mexico's 'circus wars' heat up amid animal bans

Owners claim people are being encouraged to attack circuses; activists point finger at workers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 10:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 10:57pm


Mexico's "circus wars" are heating up, with a growing movement to ban circus animals meeting rising anger from circus workers.

There have been threats posted on social networking sites urging people to attack circuses, Armando Cedeno, the head of the nation's circus owners' association, said at a demonstration by circus performers on Tuesday.

"We have a lot of threats on Facebook, with environmentalists urging people to go burn down circuses, which is very worrisome," Cedeno said as he oversaw a protest in Mexico City's main square at which circus entertainers put on a free show with horses and dogs - the only animals they will be allowed to use under a new city law banning acts with lions, tigers, elephants and other wild animals.

Aguascalientes state legislator Gilberto Gutierrez, a member of Mexico's Green party, said violence had already been inflicted - by the circus side. He said security guards beat him and other animal rights activists in front of a circus in his state in late June.

"They broke two of my teeth ... it was a direct hit," Gutierrez said. "It was an attack by the circus people, by the security guards."

The circus claimed the animal activists were blocking the entrance to the circus in Aguascalientes, where it is still legal to perform with exotic animals. Insults flew first, then fists and belts, the circus said.

Gutierrez acknowledged the demonstrators were posted on a narrow pavement at the entrance, but he insisted nobody was prevented from entering. At least two security personnel were detained in the case.

There have been mutual accusations of illegal acts, including a giraffe set loose to gallop through a suburb of the northern city of Monterrey. Video posted on social media sites showed surprised motorists making quick manoeuvres to avoid the galloping giraffe outside the circus grounds. The circus accused animal rights activists of opening the pen so the giraffe could escape.

Animal rights activists say they are fighting the kind of abuses that came to light in March when environmental inspectors raided a small provincial circus in the southern state of Yucatan and seized a black bear that had its lower jaw and upper teeth largely ripped out or cut off.

On the other side, circus people say they are closely regulated and inspected, and they feel the Mexico City ban passed in June unfairly singles them out.

Mexico City and six of Mexico's 32 states have now banned circus animals.