In Mexico, animal welfare advocates still fight myopia and indifference
When Bakliz’s lifelong owner passed away two years ago, Campeche’s 21-year-old former chariot horse ended up living in the kitchen with his master’s widow.
Horse and human spent six months living together in one room in a situation that, unsurprisingly, proved untenable for both parties.
He then went to a series of halfway houses, but Bakliz was lucky: he was taken in by an organization on the outskirts of the town of Campeche – the Yum Kaax Animal Rescue Center, a volunteer-run organization that takes care of animals of all types and sizes and helps those in need get back to health. The organization offers some of its residents for adoption into responsible homes, such as some street dogs.
A 21-year-old former draft horse, however, usually doesn’t have a wide range of second chances, and so two years after arriving, Bakliz is one of the oldest – and certainly the oldest – residents here.
Once again, this aging horse is one of the lucky ones. For every animal treated and cared for by a charity group, countless numbers across the country continue to suffer due to indifference at all levels of society. And when it comes to animal welfare in Mexico, government law is a good game, but common practice continues to lie somewhere between neglect and outright abuse.
An example: infamously, in the state of Campeche, a mass street dog poisoning event took place on my lesson walk in 2019, affecting stray animals but also walking animals. Dozens of animals died overnight in an area well monitored by security cameras, which were later found to have no records of the poison being deliberately deposited.
Understandably, with such a coordinated event, suspicion fell on state and municipal authorities, both publicly declaring innocence and blaming the other. Either way, in this highly unusual case, it was the government animal welfare custodians themselves who were charged with the murders.
Of course, street dogs in the country are far from a simple problem. Mexico has one of the largest populations in all of Latin America, and while this is in part due to irresponsible dog owners, much of the problem is lack of education and lack of access to sterilization.
As a result, dogs that are allowed to enter and leave homes largely unchecked will impregnate, or are impregnated by, homeless dogs.
Where there are street dog sterilization campaigns, they tend to be one-off and usually feel like the forgotten supplement to a non-policy. Even where such programs exist, tracking of sterilized animals is virtually non-existent, except for the efforts of local resident activists.
Sadly, most of these people are unfunded, irregular and struggling with the scale of the problem, not to mention civic indifference.
Despite the moral necessity of caring for other creatures, it is also in the interest of the general public, municipal governments, and health organizations to develop operational policies for the traveling animals of Mexico. The most obvious, but hardly accepted, rationale is that animal welfare in itself is an important human public health problem. Taking better care of animal welfare would actually save the taxpayer countless millions of pesos that are currently spent on dog bites and related faecal-borne diseases and parasites, to name just two issues.
“It’s a growing problem,” said Anielka GarcÃa Villajuana, president of the Patronato de la Ciudad de Campeche. âIt cannot be dealt with piecemeal; it needs concerted government momentum. Right now, at the forefront of this situation are individual animal lovers and small organizations, but they cannot do it alone. “
Indeed, in some cases, local authorities spend more time opposing these citizen activists than tackling the problem themselves.
In MÃ©rida, for example, animal rights activists are currently fighting the municipal government over a recent ordinance banning feeding animals on the streets. Officials said regulations were put in place to discourage the presence of animals in the city, as well as to protect local wildlife and street hygiene. However, critics point out the irony in seeking to impose sanctions on the very people who regulate street populations through care and sterilization.
For now, governments across the country are aware of the problem with no real will to deal with the problem holistically. The animals, speechless, are forgotten in the corridors of power.
Part of the problem is lawmakers’ lack of vision. In the state of Campeche, for example, the Animal Welfare Act (1997) – the only true legal vanguard against cruelty to animals – only applies to domestic and breeding animals. By prohibiting the mistreatment of animals, the law states that it is prohibited to kill any animal by cruel means, including poison and blunt trauma.
What this actually means, however, is that chronic domestic animal abuse – difficult to control at best and impossible to regulate at worst – is unchecked, and animals outside of the domestic sphere do. that is, stray dogs and other wildlife, are frequently subjected to abuse without any repercussions.
It’s a familiar theme, but one that doesn’t make it any less scary: A society that allows abuse to happen in plain sight in any context inevitably generates future generations of people accustomed to the impact of violence. violence against animals.
In the great struggle for the future of the soul of Mexico, a little more love and respect for animals would pay widespread dividends in the future.
Shannon Collins is an environmental correspondent at Ninth Wave Global, an environmental organization and think tank. She writes from Campeche.