Those running for President of the United States sure talk about Mexico a lot. So we figured we should too.
Humane Society International opened an office in Mexico City last week, hosting a well-attended event that brought together legislators, food companies, government officials, celebrities, and local organizations. We have an office in Canada, and we were long overdue to set up a similar entity in the domain of our southern neighbor. With 120 million people, Mexico has its own set of animal welfare challenges, and when you consider that countless animals are moving between our countries – right along with people and capital and so many goods and commodities – it’s imperative to put a stake in the ground there. We cannot solve animal welfare problems in the United States only to see them replanted in Mexico.
As we strengthen laws here in the United States to end animal fighting, there has been a corresponding increase in dogfighting across the border, as dogfighters bring dogs from the United States to fight and sell in Mexico. With the closure of U.S. horse slaughter plants, many more horses are now shipped across the border to Mexico, where they are butchered for their meat.
What’s more, bullfighting and animal fighting rings are not uncommon in the country, and much to our chagrin, they are still legal. There is an acute street dog problem too, with an estimated 12 million free roaming dogs, and state governments resort to cruel and ineffective means of population control, like poisoning. Mexico raises approximately two billion farm animals each year for human consumption, but there are no meaningful laws protecting these animals and extreme confinement of breeding sows and egg-laying hens is the norm on factory farms.
Our team on the ground in Mexico has already racked up some impressive accomplishments over the past year.
We have signed agreements with agencies in three cities – Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende and Aguascalientes — to enhance the enforcement of anti-cruelty laws in their jurisdictions. We have also signed an MoU with Mexico City police to enforce citywide animal cruelty laws. HSI has pledged to train, provide equipment, and collaborate with these agencies to help them better enforce existing animal cruelty laws. The first trainings were conducted last week, with top HSI experts from the United States and Costa Rica participating. HSI also provided training for the local organization Consejo Ciudano, which recently launched an animal cruelty tip line.
Public opinion and politicians in Mexico are increasingly concerned with how animals are treated. According to a leading polling agency, 86 percent of Mexicans oppose using animals for entertainment purposes, 95 percent think people who hurt animals should be penalized, 73 percent are opposed to eating horsemeat, and 73 percent favor a ban on bullfighting.
In 2014, the Mexican Congress enacted a law banning wild animals from circuses, and last year Coahuila State banned bullfighting and Oaxaca State reformed its penal code to criminalize animal abuse. The Mexican Congress is now considering five legislative proposals to enact a federal animal welfare law, and HSI is working with legislators to bring the strongest language forward in these bills, with a special focus on a nationwide ban on dogfighting.
We have also made some impressive gains for farm animals in Mexico. Our Meatless Monday campaign, which promotes more plant-based eating, and our Déjalas Mover campaign, to end the lifelong confinement of egg-laying hens in battery cages and breeding sows in gestation crates in Mexico, have been highly successful, garnering the support of dozens of celebrities, chefs, food companies, producers, and organizations. We’re working with the country’s leading food companies on the adoption of cage-free egg and crate-free pork policies. Just a few months ago, after working with HSI, Mexico-based Grupo Bimbo, the largest baking company in the world, committed to switching to a 100 percent cage-free egg supply chain. We also worked with Eurest, the country’s largest food service provider, to announce a complete shift to crate-free pork and cage-free eggs.
Our work also encompasses shelters in Mexican localities to train workers in cracking down on the homeless animal problem. The need at these shelters, as HSI-Mexico Executive Director Anton Aguilar found, can sometimes be extremely basic.
In San Miguel de Allende, for instance, the local shelter had just two employees – one who responds to calls in the field and another who works at the shelter. The dogs were quiet, calm, and contented, but the shelter lacked the most basic facilities — like dog leashes.
“After a quick trip to a local pet supply store we returned to the shelter and provided some tips on how to use the leashes we purchased and some kongs and treats,” Anton said. “One employee at the shelter was moved to tears.”
The work of HSI-Mexico is only beginning, and we face both challenges and opportunities. In the days and months ahead, you can be sure we will continue to forge strong partnerships with governments, NGOs, food companies, and other stakeholders, and transform the landscape for all animals in Mexico.