Mexicans, like Americans, know they cannot save the world. But they can save a piece of the world. Many are trying to do just that today.
Many new civic organizations have formed in that wonderful, tormented sister country by our side. One of them is Santu—Aai. The words stand for “Santuario” or Sanctuary, together with the Nahuatl word for “Nuevo Amanecer” or “New Sunrise”.
The problem? A Draconian law was passed December 2014, decreeing that all circuses sell (or dispose of) all their animals by July 8, 2015. That’s right— lions and tigers and bears—oh my!—and even jaguars, giraffes and elephants. Over 2,500 circus animals without a home! They cannot return to the wild. Many will be sold to hunters and taxidermists!
The law was a sop in the Mexican Congress to the small “Green” Party (a peculiar, family-owned party, subsidized by the P.R.I.). The all-too-rapid legislative process and foolish results were probably ignored by the major parties. Now the country must deal with it. Lovers of wildlife must deal with it.
You can help deal with it. The Sanctuary movement in Mexico is growing rapidly. This project is off the ground. It will be the first wild animal sanctuary in Latin America. The sponsors have all the necessary government approval. They have already rented a 345 acre refuge near Mexico City (Tlálpan, Topilejo). They plan to care for this “ejido” (native Indigenous) land, giving the animals homes and campesinos jobs. They are committed to developing health clinics for the inhabitants of nearby villages.
The whole affair is a microcosm for Mexican politics. Goodhearted people, up against bureaucratic government regulations, private greed and scarcity of resources, are fighting to shine a light of reason and humanity on this immediate subject. The Mexican case is not unique. We are perhaps further along in the U.S. with concern for and protection of circus animals. The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) and other organizations are formidable pressure groups. Mexico is just getting started.
We are facing centuries of bad habits. Circuses have existed since Roman and Medieval times. Animals have been used and abused since those times, to “entertain” us. The infamous “Bread and Circuses” concept is a well-worn method of pacifying the masses. Many of us have fallen for the scam. But it only takes a brief reading of some of the literature (or a visual tour of some of the shocking conditions) to disengage from the childhood fascination with circuses. (See: Anastasia Niedrich Animals, Circuses and the Law, Michigan State Law, 2010).
Many animal “trainers” are professional and considerate. Many more aren’t. We can’t ignore the hooks used on elephants to make them sit on tiny stools. We can’t ignore the forced training to make a tiger jump through a hoop of fire. Even if that were possible we cannot now ignore the callous disposal of the animals which have trusted and entertained us. Many will be killed. Many will be sold for “canned hunts.” They are not afraid of humans and so, fenced in, become “fish in a barrel” (or lions) for wealthy (bored? cowardly?) hunters.
The problems of protection are enormous; moats, fences, protection of animals and of humans in the refuges, costs of feeding, on and on. Zoos will not take the animals; many are old and may be ill. Vets in Mexico have volunteered and the society response in Mexico, thus far, is heartening.
Check the (non-profit) Fundación Santuario site for video and further information. As always, for great causes, money is necessary. Heart and humanity must join financing and organization to help heal this problem faced by our human and animal brothers and sisters.
To learn more about the project and to make a donation watch this video.