More than 1,000 acrobats, clowns and other circus employees have marched through central Mexico City in protest at a ban on animals in circuses.
There can be no lions or tigers or bears, not even dogs or horses, in circus rings under a law passed without opposition by the city on Monday. Penalties include fines ranging from US$45,000 to US$60,000,
Circus performers say the law will leave both animals and humans out of work. "Hundreds of families are going to be out of work," said Julio Cesar Ramirez, 33, a clown and fourth-generation circus worker who marched. "This is a tradition that goes back 250 years."
Holding signs reading "Mexico wants circuses with animals!" and "Circuses love their animals", ranks of clowns lined up while acrobats performed on truck-drawn trampolines and scantily clad women sauntered along in feathered hats.
They paraded plastic animal statues on trucks to show what a circus would look like without live creatures.
Armando Cedeno, president of the national circus association, said the measure by the Mexican capital would affect about 50,000 staff and up to 3,500 animals, mainly elephants, tigers, camels and hippos.
"It is impossible to take these animals back to their natural habitat, because they would die," he said.
Cedeno said the animals were treated well and regulated by the environment department.
He said stereotypes of an animal trainer with a whip in hand were outdated, and that circus animals were brought up from infancy in an atmosphere where performing was a form of play.
He said each tiger, for example, ate three or four chickens a day, costing about US$20. "If someday the government expropriates our animals, they're not going to have the money to keep them, and if they have the money it would be better spent on feeding street children."
Supporters of the measure say training, movement in enclosed vehicles and frequent performances hurt the animals.
Aurora Vazquez, a member of Mexico's leading circus clan, said customers in Mexico's heavily child-oriented market would not go to circuses without animals.
The city of nine million follows several other Mexican cities and states in banning circus animal acts, although the measure does not apply to shows with dolphins or bullfighting, nor does it prohibit the use of animals in Mexico's traditional rodeos.
Circuses will be given one year to change their acts.