Bob Bestler | No lions, tigers or bears in Mexico circuses

July 4, 2014 

I know it's close to heresy to suggest that Latin American countries are in any way more advanced than the United States, but there is one area where Mexico and several others may be leading the way.

The family and I recently vacationed in Mexico and were surprised to learn that one of the big issues south of the border was the treatment of circus animals.

The Mexico City legislative body has followed several other Mexican cities in prohibiting the appearance of animals in circuses. The law, which takes effect next year, came after investigations by animal rights groups showed the inhumane treatment of circus animals in that country.

In fairness to the well-run Ringlings and Barnums and Cole Brothers circuses in our own country, Mexico's circuses are often small family affairs and the treatment of animals is often low on the agenda.

A Mexican resident we met was clearly on the side of the ban.

“It is a very big issue,” he said. “People who go to circuses are very poor and the owners cannot charge very much. It is not a good living. Circus families barely make enough to take care of themselves.''

Supporters of the ban say it is an attempt to restore dignity to animals.

“It isn't in a bear's nature to wear roller skates,'' said one legislator. “It isn't in a tiger's nature to jump through a flaming ring.''

Meanwhile, the head of Mexico's National Union of Circus Owners and Performers lamented the decision in a New York Times interview, saying it would put thousands of people out of work.

“We know how to put on a show without animals, but people don't want to see it,'' he said.

I must admit, though it’s better for the animals I can't disagree. With three children and a few grandchildren, I've been to many circuses over the years and it would be hard to enjoy a circus without animals.

Imagine no elephants, no horses, no tigers, no cute doggies.

The high-wire acts are cool, but after that all we're left with are clowns. Apologies to the Omar Shriners, but I'd never pay to see a bunch of clowns.

Contact Bob Bestler at

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