BY NIGEL BEAN
Please spare a thought for the Mexican trainer Nicky Fuentes Ziccolonee (in the photos below) and her beautiful tigers, most of which are now dead. What follows below, from our Mexican friends, is the story of Mexican Circus animals and what happened after the ill thought out Mexican Circus Animals ban:
What happened to the animals of Mexican Circuses after the ban?
The death of nearly 2,000 animals and the plague of illness that followed is unforgivable. It is a clear demonstration of the lack of empathy that animal rights groups and the Mexican Green Party have for animals. So many unnecessary deaths followed the ban, not to mention the closing of hundreds of circuses. When the ban began, it was estimated that Mexico had approximately 700 circuses… the latest count revealed that only 30% are left. The unemployment of thousands of families of artists and technical crew – now left homeless and jobless after animal rights groups manifested their anti-circus smear campaigns without giving a damn for the real-life consequences.
When the ban came into place, circuses were threatened with a 225,000 USD fine if they were found with animals. The circuses that did not have prior contact with zoos to get their animals in early before they were full – and that did not have sanctuaries that they could take the animals to – were forced to euthanise their animals or sell them to private collectors. If poachers had killed even half the animals that were killed in the Mexican circus crisis, animal welfare and the world would be up in arms! What about when Cecil the Lion was killed? Remember that? In Mexico hundreds of lions died due to this ban! Hundreds! Why did hardly any news outlets talk about this?
What was not considered was that circus animals are very much a unique variety of animal, often 30 generations captive-bred in the circus. These animals have very close connections to their animal handlers and the typical daily circus life and routines they live. They are better regimented and this is why zoos tend to adopt them first rather than wild animals.
Mexico’s government is now realising the damage they have caused by this hasty and unfair ruling, as they have witnessed with their own eyes the mass carnage that has been left behind. People are now understanding that the Green Party and animal rights activists are extremists who acted on emotion and not based on any scientific facts or sound peer-reviewed evidence. The government are talking now about reversing the ban.
María Luisa Fuentes Sánchez (Nicky’s mother) and her circus have lost 90% of their audience due to the ban. Their beautiful circus tent, which once held a 1500 audience capacity, now on some days only has 50 people in attendance. (More than hen harrier fest but still very few people). Life has become hard, and they are struggling to survive. The media attention the ban got in Mexico and thousands of dollars in paid newspaper and magazine reviews that were purchased on behalf of the Animal Rights organisations to taint circuses’ once great reputation in Mexico, she says took away nearly 40% of their audience. Circuses were suddenly slammed as being cruel to animals. The advertising paid off.
Many of the images and videos used in the animal rights videos and press releases weren’t even from a Mexican circus and were used dishonestly. Much of the footage was taken in India and in other third world countries, but the imagery was enough to shock much of the public. Then those who wanted to see the animals in the show stopped coming when animals were removed. This particular circus tours the north of Mexico where hardly any zoos exist, so the animals are the locals’ only way of ever having knowledge or any first-hand interactions with such unusual and beautiful species.
Circus animals are very well known to not survive well once taken away from their circus habitat. The connection the animals have to their trainers and the enrichment these animals get by learning new things and exercising in their act are things these animals cannot live without. It would be the equivalent of a loving pet dog owner, who plays with the dog all day and has no other job suddenly dumping the dog in some zoo where it’s left in a cage or enclosure, with no more human interaction… one can imagine how this affects the animal psychologically. Like humans going to prison.
When the ban took place, Maria tried to donate her tigers firstly to Tiger Encounters in the USA, as she knew that this would be the next best thing for her animals, where the animals could still have human connections and day to day training and travelling – what these animals knew as “normal”. But Mexican authorities and US authorities made any exportation impossible. So, she had to donate the animals to a zoo in Tijuana – 11 Tigers (white and yellow) and five horses. Shortly after, all five horses died. Four of the tigers have now died also. All since 2021.
This is an absolute scandal.
It was not the zoo’s fault these animals died, the enclosures were quite good for zoo standard. Simply, the enclosed and boring zoo lifestyle was not what these animals were accustomed to. No loving human mummy or daddy to give them cuddles and talk with them throughout the day, no exciting new smells of the next city’s turf, no exercise for their brains or learning new skills. Just Groundhog Day with members of the public gaping at them instead of clapping them in excitement.
The death of an African Elephant by the name of Mary was also covered widely by the press. Elephants are one of the most sensitive creatures and have probably the most difficult time out of all circus animals adjusting to zoos and sanctuaries.
The trainers that have been affected are also in crisis. What continues to be a problem is that these trainers, now with so many circus artists unemployed and with only their skill as a trainer to rely on, had no way to support their families.
An example was the case of animal trainer Junior Ruiz. His father needed urgent kidney surgery, but there was now no way to pay for this as he had lost his job as a trainer. Friends from the circus tried to help, but all circus artists are now suffering due to the crisis, so the trainer’s father died without the financial help he needed for dialysis. He ended up with a similar issue with supporting his sister’s dialysis too. To find out more about Junior’s story, please visit the link here.
Animal Rights activists promised the world they had an exit plan for Mexico. They lied to their donors in their fundraising efforts, they lied to the circus and also to the world. Now we have thousands of families in poverty, of hundreds of beautiful animals many are now dead and probably more will die over the coming year.
The circus industry has in general and globally witnessed a spike in animal rights extremism over the past few years. Vandalism, threats, stolen property, physical abuse by obsessive protestors towards trainers and circus owners, verbal abuse thrown at not only them, but their patrons by protestors/activists, not to mention the constant trolling by oddbods and losers. The industry feels very misunderstood, victimised and bullied. These animals are very much loved by their owners. Newspapers and magazines are constantly printing articles that are pushed through by activists with millions of dollars to fund their views that spread lies and inaccuracies about circuses, using imagery that isn’t from the circuses in question.
The Mexican circus industry is clear about what it wants:
To find out more about the calamitous Mexican Circus animal ban, please visit this page here.
Nigel Bean is Country Squire Magazine’s Rural Affairs Correspondent.