Last Thursday, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies (the analog to our U.S. House of Representatives) gave its approval to national anti-dogfighting legislation, bringing us one major step closer to a countrywide ban on the barbaric practice. Many among Mexico’s 31 states and one federal district forbid the practice, but it’s essential that a national policy be developed to root out this activity and to establish a bright-line federal policy on animal cruelty.
Earlier this year, HSI-Mexico launched an anti-dogfighting campaign with the support of legislators, celebrities, and high-level Mexico City officials, collecting over 200,000 signatures against this cruel spectacle – and winning the vote in the Chamber of Deputies by a count of 291 to 1. The legislation prohibits organizing fights, owning or trading a fighting dog, possessing a property used to hold fights, and attending a fight as a spectator. This initiative has now been sent to the Senate, where we expect it to be voted upon and signed into law in 2017.
I’m just returning today from Mexico City, and I cannot tell you how pleased I am that HSI has a major presence in the nation. We are extending U.S.-based anti-cruelty campaigns to so many parts of the world, but a particular priority for me is our work in Mexico and Canada. These are the biggest neighbors and trading partners of the United States, with so much movement and commerce between the nations. We cannot simply take action in the United States on abuses like dogfighting, horse slaughter, factory farming, and trophy hunting, and then allow the bad practices of businesses or U.S. citizens to migrate to our neighboring countries. We need a North American solution to animal cruelty.
Some may think that Mexico is lagging in addressing animal protection issues, but let’s remember that it wasn’t until 2007 that the United States had a very strong national anti-dogfighting policy. As with so many things, it takes leadership to drive change, and you can draw a straight line from HSI setting up its office in Mexico City in March of this year (just as our leadership in the United States led the enactment of the national anti-dogfighting policy at home), to this important new policy idea that is now gaining such traction. (By the way, within the last year, we’ve also passed anti-cruelty and anti-dogfighting laws in the Central American countries of El Salvador and Honduras, and introduced such legislation in Guatemala.)
In less than a year, we’ve been able to make remarkable gains in Mexico. Here are just a few of them:
- HSI-Mexico and the Izamal (Yucatan) Municipality ended the Kots Kaal Pato fiesta– the cruel 100-year- old festival in which animals were hung up like piñatas and beaten to death. An agreement was signed in April to continue to collaborate on providing non-cruel alternatives to celebrate the fiesta. HSI-Mexico signed memoranda of understanding in April with agencies in three cities — Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, and Aguascalientes — to enhance the enforcement of anti-cruelty laws in their jurisdictions. Dozens of trainings have been offered and hundreds of animal-handling equipment items and humane education materials have been donated.
- Alsea, the largest restaurant operator in Latin America and Spain, announced a cage-free egg policy after several years of talks with HSI. Alsea operates the brands Burger King, Domino’s, Starbucks, VIPs, Chili’s, California Pizza Kitchen, PF Chang’s, El Porton, Foster’s Hollywood, Pei Wei, Italianni’s, and Cheesecake Factory. This policy applies to the 3,000 units that Alsea operates in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, and Spain. Two other major restaurant operators, CMR and Grupo Toks, also announced cage-free policies in partnership with HSI. CMR operates the brands Wings, Fonda Mexicana, La Destilería, El Lago, Bistró Chapultepec, Chili ́s, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and The Capital Grille in Mexico. Grupo Toks operates 226 restaurants in Mexico, including Toks, Panda Express, Cup Stop, Restaurantes California, and Beer Factory.
- A team of Mexican veterinarians from HSI spent a week in Haiti providing emergency animal rescue and treatment following the devastation left behind by Hurricane Matthew. The team set up emergency clinics in four communities near Port au Prince and provided treatment for 1,236 animals, including horses, cows, donkeys, cats, dogs, goats, sheep, pigs, mules, calves, and chickens.
We also learned just today that Mexico City’s Constitutional Assembly’s Rights Commission has approved an article on animal welfare to be included in the constitution the city will adopt on February. HSI Mexico has worked on building a consensus around enshrining animal protection in the new constitution, once Mexico City becomes a federal entity similar to a state early next year.
HSI and The HSUS have global footprints, and that work is expanding. But our presence is biggest now in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. That’s major progress for us, and I hope you’ll help us fortify and grow our presence in these two enormous and important nations.