By Anton Aguilar
One of the great honors of being able to work toward a more humane world through our family of organizations is witnessing how public sentiments toward animals are changing across the globe. In North America, we work across the continent to effect change for animals. At the end of 2022, great progress came in Mexico: The state of Tlaxcala passed a law that makes animal abuse a crime. In this guest blog, Anton Aguilar, executive director of HSI/Mexico, discusses the significance of this achievement and the advocacy and cultural shifts that made such progress possible.
At the end of 2022, something remarkable happened in Mexico: The Tlaxcala State Congress approved new legislation recognizing animal abuse, including dogfighting, as a crime punishable by law. We at Humane Society International/Mexico celebrated this win. The legislation, first introduced in 2021, represents a monumental victory for Mexico and is an important step toward a nationwide policy that guarantees animal well-being. With Tlaxcala banning animal cruelty, only one state in the country, Chiapas, has yet to criminalize the mistreatment of animals in its local criminal code.
This progress in Mexico has been years in the making. Thanks to the activism of various civil organizations and increasing awareness and concern for animals among citizens, several state laws protecting animals have passed in the past decade. One groundbreaking example is Mexico City’s constitution, one of the most animal-friendly in the Americas, which guarantees the “right to a healthy environment” for animals. We are proud to have helped draft the portion of the constitution that recognizes animals as sentient beings whose welfare must be protected.
Another important milestone was the federal ban on dogfighting in June 2017. In 2016, our team launched the “No More Dogfighting” (No + Peleas de Perros) campaign. Not only was it very well received by legislators, and the population in general, but it also received media coverage in more than 160 news articles. The ban on dogfighting marked the first time any form of animal abuse was penalized at the federal level in Mexico. The law also paved the way for Mexican states to move forward in approving much-needed reforms and strong penalties concerning dogfighting. In 2018, for example, the states of Chihuahua and Yucatan approved bills to penalize a range of activities related to dogfighting. Fortunately, today most states in Mexico have an animal protection law.
Companion animals aren’t the only ones receiving protection in Mexico. In 2021, Mexico became the first nation in North America to pass a law banning animal testing for cosmetics. It also bans the import, manufacture and marketing of cosmetics that have been tested on animals anywhere in the world. The legislation was championed by HSI/Mexico and our partner ONG TeProtejo, with support from many of the corporate members of the Animal-Free Safety Assessment Collaboration. Our multi-year campaign collected nearly 1.5 million signatures in support of the ban, thanks to the power of our film, Save Ralph, which featured the Spanish-speaking voice talents of George Lopez, Rosario Dawson and Wilmer Valderrama. The bill won the unanimous support of Mexico’s senate.
At HSI/Mexico, we are so excited about all these wins. They are clear signs that the government is committed to rooting out animal cruelty in our country. Moreover—and what I personally find even more promising—the shift in public opinion toward animal welfare has been incredible. There is increasing awareness of the need to guarantee the well-being of animals. A survey by Parametria found that 99% of Mexicans oppose dogfights and 86% reject the use of animals in any form of entertainment. It is worth recalling that the world’s largest bullfighting arena, the Monumental Plaza de Toros in Mexico City, no longer holds bullfights, after a judge issued a suspension on bullfighting shows there last year. It is worth recalling that the world’s largest bullfighting arena, the Monumental Plaza de Toros in Mexico City, no longer holds bullfights, after a judge issued a suspension on bullfighting shows there last year.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen and helped to encourage meaningful changes in how people view animals in Mexico. Animal protection has gained prominence, and cruelty to animals is steadily becoming an important concern. The number of animal protection organizations and activists has increased, and with this upsurge of awareness, it may not be long before there is a further extension of humane treatment for animals in Mexico. I’m excited to see what this year will bring, including, potentially, enhanced anti-cruelty legislation in Mexico City, closing legal loopholes in Chiapas state, advancing the implementation of the cosmetics animal testing ban and strengthening enforcement of animal abuse laws.
I’m truly proud of the things we’ve been able to achieve in Mexico, and grateful to the many supporters, advocates who have backed our work with their own great energy and optimism. This bodes well for the future of animals. That’s what it’s about for me, and for my colleagues. There’s nothing better than seeing this kind of progress unfold. It really gives us the feeling that the wind is at our backs and boosts our optimism and confidence about the future of animal protection in Mexico and elsewhere.