It is almost unfathomably monstrous, and it is repeated around the year, year after year, in the municipalities of Yucatan, Mexico. Men riding bulls goad the animals to chase horses in arenas. The bulls charge at the horses, injuring and eviscerating them. The horses, their guts hanging loose, die a slow and painful death even as cheering crowds, including children, watch.
This horrible fiesta, called Torneo de Lazo, is organized by itinerant rodeos that move from town to town. While state animal protection laws in Mexico ban these events, they also leave it to individual municipalities to authorize “traditional” fiestas, allowing such events to flourish.
Humane Society International/Mexico is now calling for a complete ban of this cruel spectacle, and has collected more than 130,000 signatures which our office director will deliver to the chair of the environment committee of the Yucatan Congress, Josué Camargo.
This is the latest in a series of fights HSI has undertaken around the globe to end animal cruelty disguised as tradition or some valued enterprise. Cast by enthusiasts as a celebration of culture or religion, they can be more accurately described as archaic, barbaric, and shameful.
In China, we are working to end the Yulin dog meat festival, where thousands of dogs are killed for meat each year. HSI is campaigning in Spain to end the bull fiestas where the animals are tormented and chased on foot and horseback, before being stabbed to death.
In 2016, we helped end another cruel tradition in Mexico – the Kots Kaal Pato, where small animals and ducks were strung up like pinatas and crowds of men lined up with sticks to beat these animals to death or to cut off their heads.
Surveys show that 95 percent of Mexicans oppose animal cruelty and believe people who harm animals should be penalized. In recent years, we’ve seen tremendous progress in Mexico toward ending various forms of animal cruelty. Last year, Mexico’s Congress established a nationwide ban on dogfighting, and Mexico City’s constitution was made better by a statement recognizing that animals are sentient beings.
It is now time for Yucatan to embrace this progress away from animal cruelty and ban the Torneo de Lazo. Tradition is not an excuse for animal cruelty, and it is especially troubling when children are exposed to such suffering. Yucatan state is a major tourist draw with its beautiful beaches and Mayan ruins, among many other attractions. But as our HSI/Mexico director Anton Aguilar points out, cruelty of this nature can severely damage the state’s image and hurt tourism. That’s why it must end.