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Animal ban means no Ringling Bros. shows

No performances in Mexico as ban on circus animals takes effect in July

A ban on the use of animals in circuses has led to the cancellation of performances in Mexico by “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will not travel to Mexico this year because of the ban which goes into full effect in July, said spokesman Stephen Payne.

He said the company had attempted to explain to government officials the manner in which it cares for its animals and the standards it follows, but to no avail. Payne also said a percentage of ticket sales goes to associations that work to protect animals, as well as conservationists.

He claimed the government has preferred to rely on “distortions generated by animal protection groups that in reality do nothing to save endangered species.”

The head of the circus owners’ association estimates that 10% of the country’s circuses have closed so far as a result of the ban, which will also likely mean that many animals will have to be put down.

“If we can’t feed them, we’re going to have to put them to sleep,” said Armando Cedeno. About 200 circuses have permits to use animals, so the number affected could be in the thousands, he said.

Circus performers have protested the restriction, fearing they will lose their jobs. That’s what happened to fourth-generation circus performer Jaime Castillo, a trapeze artist.

“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.

The ban has been spearheaded by the Ecologist Green Party and has been adopted already in 12 states.

While Ringling Bros. argued against the ban, it announced this week that it would retire its elephants, seen as a symbol of the circus since Barnum & Bailey brought the first to America in 1882.

Today the circus has 13 performing elephants, all of which will be retired by 2018 and join 29 others on its 80-hectare Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.

Ringling Bros. owner Feld Entertainment said it wasn’t reacting to critics, which include PETA, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, but to the many “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” regulations passed by many cities and towns.

“There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers,” said Alana Feld, the company’s executive vice-president. “A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”

For their entertainment, meanwhile, Mexicans can continue to enjoy traditional fare such as bullfights and cockfights.

Sources: Excélsior (sp), Wall Street Journal (en), AP (en)

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