Worry Under the Big Top as Mexico City Moves to Ban Circus Animals
Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times
By ELISABETH MALKIN
JUNE 14, 2014
MEXICO CITY — It is a weekday evening under the circus tent, and Bebeto Fuentes does it all effortlessly. He soars on the trapeze, vaults on and off a cantering horse, keeps an eye on the tigers, spins off the trampoline and takes a turn as a melancholy clown.
But once he is out of the ring, he talks anxiously, worry on his young face. If the ban on circus animals that was approved here last week goes ahead, he said, the Fuentes Gasca Brothers Circus, founded by his grandparents, will not survive.
“My grandmother taught my father; he taught us,” said Mr. Fuentes, 20, who appears with his brothers as the Fuentes Boys, twice each evening and four times on Sundays. “I was born among the tigers and the monkeys.”
Mexico City’s legislative assembly voted last week to prohibit animals from appearing in circuses, a ban that will take effect a year after the law is published in the city register. That may take awhile: The city government has agreed to meet with circus owners first. The ban echoes rising concern in many countries about the treatment of circus animals, stoked by undercover videos circulated by animal rights groups on social media, investigative magazine articles and high-profile lawsuits.
Mexico’s tight-knit community of family-owned circuses, whose big tops seem like a midcentury relic compared with the glittering spectacle that most Americans know, is on the defensive, arguing that a cherished Mexican tradition would vanish and tens of thousands of people, many of them the working poor, would be thrown out of work.
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