MEXICO CITY (AP) — The head of Mexico's circus owners' association says his group's animals may die or be put down because of a ban on animal acts in circuses.
Armando Cedeno said new laws banning the use of animals made no provision for who will support the big cats, elephants, zebras and other animals when they can no longer work. Food and care for some of the animals can cost close to $100 a day.
"If we can't feed them, we're going to have to put them to sleep. We don't have any other option," said Cedeno, who gave reporters a tour Thursday of a ranch north of Mexico City where circuses — many of which are going out of business — have stored animals, trailers and circus equipment.
He said about 200 circuses in Mexico have permits to use animals, so the number of animals affected could be in the thousands.
A federal ban spearheaded by the country's Green Party is set to go into effect in July. But Mexico City and several other states have already approved bans, which are meant to protect the animals from mistreatment.
"The inspection of circuses doesn't work," said Lourdes Lopez Moreno, a Green Party member who leads the environment committee in congress' Chamber of Deputies. "There are no data for how many circuses there are, how many animals. Ten circuses a year are reviewed."
"We find cases of physical and psychological abuse, the feeding and training programs are not correct," Lopez said.
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus won't come to Mexico this year because of the bans, spokesman Stephen Payne said Friday.
Circus owners say the law does little to protect animals already working in circus and says nothing about bullfighting, which is still legal in Mexico, as is cock-fighting.
Twelve of Mexico's 31 states already enforce the ban. The federal law takes effect July 8.
The new law requires circuses to submit lists of the animals they possess, and it would be made available to zoos interested in taking the animals. But with Mexico's public zoos strapped for cash, it is unclear whether they can take any of the circus animals or how much they could give the owners in compensation.
Cedeno estimated about 10 percent of the country's circuses already have closed because of the ban.
Trapeze artist Jaime Castillo, a fourth-generation circus performer, is now jobless at age 45.
"I am out of work directly because of the Green Party campaign, and the drop In ticket sales that led us to bankruptcy," Castillo said.
Lopez responded that "you can have a circus without animals. You can change what's offered and the public's culture."