Mexico City Bans Use of Circus Animals

Violators face $70,000 fines, confiscation of animals

Jun 11, 2014
Outside Magazine
A new Mexico City ban on animals in circus acts puts nonhuman performers in a precarious situation. animal cruelty outside online barnum and bailey ringling brothers animal trainer elephant lion tiger bear dog

A new Mexico City ban on animals in circus acts puts nonhuman performers in a precarious situation.    AaronAmat/ThinkStock

Mexico City circus acts have long walked fine lines between animal care and cruelty. Following abuse allegationspoliticians voted overwhelmingly Monday to ban on use of animals in circus acts

The bill, which received 41 supporting votes and had no detractors, is awaiting Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera's signature. Mexican lawmakers aren't playing games: The bill would make lawbreakers susceptible to fines of $70,000 and confiscation of their animals. Circuses have about one year to adjust their performances to meet the new standards.

When the bill passes, Mexico City will join Peru, Bolivia, and six Mexican states in banning animal circuses. American congressmen have worked to curb animal circuses, but the most recent bill was shot down.

The news has been met with international applause from animal welfare groups, but performers are breathing fire. Nearly 1,000 circus employees marched against the ban yesterday, saying that a blanket ban could hurt their jobs and penalize circuses that treat animals well. 

"We have watched these animals be born and take care of them their whole lives. How would we abuse them?" said animal trainer Isaid Berti in an interview with Agence France-Presse. "They are part of our family. … So why should those who have done no wrong pay the price for those who have?"

Performers are also accusing lawmakers of grandstanding: The bill applies only to circuses rather than all forms of entertainment that incorporate animals into production, such as rodeos.

Although circuses will no longer be allowed to use animals as part of their acts, they are not being forced to give the animals up. Hopefully, they'll care for their exotic pets, profit or no profit, or instead find proper homes for them. When Peru banned animal circuses, many animals were moved to preserves in the United States.