The end of the world's biggest animal circus it feels like the end of an era that I still got to live (that makes me feel old). I was probably around 15 years old when I saw this particular circus live in Mexico City. It was a spectacular and very well produced show. Perhaps the clown jokes were a tad bit too old fashioned for my taste but the colors, acrobatics and wild animals were still quite a sight.
I knew fully well that these animals are rather cruelly treated for the initial training, but at least this specific circus didn't purposely mutilate their animals like sawing off their jaws and declawing such as the seedier mom & pop mexican circuses. An argument many people that directly work with these animals is that while they agree the animals usually live in closed enclosures while they are traveling, the animals are always given something to keep their minds alert and entertained. Compare that with zoo animals that live in closed enclosures without any sort of stimulation. The animals looked well-fed and I didn't see abuse.
I can agree that changing human tastes and an increasingly vocal animal rights movement is rightfully pushing circuses away from using large wild animals. On the other hand, think this circus could have continued to exist by using better alternatives such as trained dogs which are easier and cheaper to carry around without the need to promote illegal breeding or poaching mothers in their natural habitat to steal the babies. They could even use shelter dogs that are clearly mutts to appease people that are also against breeding purebloods just for the sake of it when mutts can perform tricks equally well and would otherwise be euthanized.
I really do think the circus could have changed to dogs and still garner a great show without charging hefty fees for tickets. If operational costs were an issue, just have a fixed show in Las Vegas and do a few tours to major foreign capitals. Maybe offer deals with hotels & airlines to bring the tourists to Vegas. It would probably be far cheaper than getting sanitary permits to bring dozens of large animals across borders. I remember the grandiosity of this show very well, the tickets were definitely not cheap, this is the kind of show that you aim at middle class and rich audiences. The kind of family that has 3000 MXN to spend on a show like this most likely has valid tourist visas to visit the US if you know how to market the convenient weekend Vegas family vacation getaway.
While I am indeed glad that these animals will be given a dignifying retirement, it saddens me that hundreds of hardworking people including acrobats, clowns and technicians will be out of a job.
What about the mom & pop circuses?
I sometimes did summer camp in Parque Naucalli growing up and in the mid 1990's a smaller circus would always camp in the premises with big animals. Unlike the Ringling & Barnum circus, these shows didn't have the Hollyood type budget for the fancy lights & pricey costumes. While I did feel uncomfortable seeing the big cats in boring cages while I walked around the camp as a kid, the animals never looked abused and the staff treated them well. The animals never suffered from heat stroke or other ailments.
I will however fully condemn the horrifying treatment of the circuses to their animals that visited the Riviera Maya. It's freaking 90 F outside in Playa del Carmen in July with 100% humidity and these shoddy circuses would keep their big animals in tiny enclosures roasting away without tossing cold water on them. I still spotted these circuses of dubious repute in 2015 right when the new mexican law banning usage of big animals in circuses was passed. This last time I was in town for a brief visit last August I didn't see them camping in the usual empty lot.
There are many very small low budget circuses that visit rural villages in Mexico. They didn't show up this year in the village in the boonies I currently live. These circuses are the only source of entertainment in villages that have crappy cellphone service, hideous pseudo high speed internet and "sometimes" 1 functional tv station for the vast majority that don't pay for satellite tv. The cost of attendance is barely 1 USD. I never went inside to see the shows, but you can hear them blasting the sound all over the village. I was initially worried such a low budget show would use animals but the cheap costs of attendance and small crowds quieted my worries by merely sticking to comedy skits from clowns. They don't even get jugglers for these shows. I guess you get what you pay for and in these villages the cellphone service is so bad that kids in these rural places just don't have any other form of entertainment.
In a way I feel like it's an end to an era. While I am again glad for the wild animals, I do sincerely fear for the trainers that are now without a job and without other marketable skills. Many people have affirmed the death of the circus wasn't even mainly because of the animals' plight to begin with, it's that kids these days are too busy rambling nonsense on instagram (Jayden Smith anyone?) and watching political rant videos on youtube. I guess it's just the change of the times and I lived through the switch.
What will happen to the animals?
Good question. The holier-than-thou animal lovers cheered for the animals and didn't care that many mexican circus animals ended up euthanized the next day because facilities were at full capacity already. Good job!
I was reading on the internet about a big cat shelter in Mexico City known as Black Jaguar White Tiger (never heard of it before even though I grew up in this town). They get the high five praises by articles such as this one below:
The article seems to bombast the project as the godsend of the angels claiming without any form of veritable proof that the animals are well taken care of and have their vet visits. It just claims with starry gullible eyes that the owner of the sanctuary has all of his permits from the SEMARNAT.
Now, I am a mexican and I'm perhaps just very cynical because I've seen the circus acts of professional con artists a tad bit too many times. After the fiasco and massive animal genocide of the Tajamar project in Cancun that was made possible with shoddy permits (and a very, very big bribe.. errr... contribution to the Quintana Roo SEMARNAT), I have little trust in them. If you haven't heard because there isn't any A-List Hollywood actor that went to protest, Malecón Tajamar is an alley in the marshland in the hotel district of Cancun that was prime real estate. Shoddy developers that couldn't care bull squirt about real-life threats such as hurricanes or methane gas explosions that kill people for stupidly building hotels on top of swamps had been greasing their hands with very important members of mexican political royalty over 10 years to bribe them enough and obtain the permits.
The SEMARNAT only gave them the permit *IF* they transplanted the wild animals, many of them endangered species to another part of the swamp. The jerks chose to ignore the protests of the locals and with the protection of local Cancun cops, they destroyed with bulldozers 1 hectarea of marshland... and then buried the animals alive. Now, I know that crocodiles are not cute & cuddly tiger pups, but being buried alive is a really crappy way to die. Just look at these articles below makes me cringe.
Yes, the first link is not a joke, it's pretty damn real. Before they destroyed that valuable piece of marshland and murdered the poor wild animals, a group of public school children in Cancun wrote a petition to stop the permits from going through. A blood sucking lawyer wanted to sue the kids millions of pesos in slandering fees. It's like some sort of hollywierd dystopian fantasy flick because it's too ridiculous to be true.
But don't worry, the squeaky clean mexican government did a recent raid a few days ago and claim there are no dead animals. Maybe they should dig deeper and see the croc skeletons.
So there you go, this and an infinite other cases of shoddy laws with no regard for the welfare of Mexico is a common ocurrence down here. Returning to the Black Jaguar White Tiger sanctuary, I don't see a lot of unbiased articles of ordinary joes actually visiting the place. The owner only allows hot shot celebrities to pose photos with the cuddly pups. This angers me.
If you have ever been to Playa del Carmen and visited Quinta Avenida like I have several hundreds of times, sooner or later you will spot some dude that has a chained jaguar pup or an endangered monkey that offers you to take that perfect photograph for a fee. Gullible tourists with good intentions still fall for this trap without knowing that these animals are obtained *barely* but *still* legally. Locals complain the animals are locked up in tiny carrying cases without anywhere no move and suffer from thirst in 90 F heat for hours & hours but the government still allows them to operate. Many better minded tourists that know this is cruel have complained... only to fall to deaf ears because there is a law in Mexico when non mexicans are barred from protesting or else risk being kicked out of the country.
Maybe this sanctuary is good, but given I'm just a sheer mortal nobody, I have never been granted the Charlie & the Chocolate Factory gold ticket to go inside. What I do know is that the owner doesn't neuter & spay his cats. He doesn't have an unlimited amount of space in his ranch and just allows the animals to breed out of control. I don't see a lot of articles complaining about that.
While I'm certain someone like the author of this article had good intentions, does he realize white tigers are a genetic anomaly that come from inbreeding brothers & sister tigers? To think this sanctuary is accepting white pups to be breeding out of control just seems sort of wrong. And then he allows these animals to get too close to a human.
What if these animals rip someone's face off? Mexico doesn't have a lot of plastic surgeons and the few that do exist here have never performed a face transplant before. I can just smell a lawsuit coming.