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Loophole allows bloody lasso tournaments to continue

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A young vaquero, 23, died last June in a lasso tournament in Ucú. Photo: Campeche Tribuno

Activists last week presented a proposal to end a loophole that allows brutal rodeo-type tournaments in rural Yucatán, despite laws protecting animals.

A loophole in present legislation godfathers bloody torneos de lazo — lasso tournaments — for entertainment as a piece of local heritage.

Horses often end up severely injured after these cruel exhibitions, where children are part of the cheering audience. Vaqueros, or cowboys, are also taking risks. A horseback rider, 23, died last summer in Ucú during a tournament.

With a petition containing more than 130,000 signatures from around the world, Antón Aguilar García, executive director of Humane Society International (HSI) Mexico; and Felipe Márquez Muñoz, manager of the Program against Animal Cruelty, presented Rep. Josué Camargo Gamboa, president of the Environment Committee of the state Congress, a proposal to strengthen the Law for the Protection of the Fauna of Yucatan.

Although this law establishes that everyone has the obligation to treat animals humanely, a loophole exists in article 42: It gives municipalities authority to authorize shows with animals if they are in traditional roles or playing out a community custom.

But Aguilar García maintains that lasso tournaments are not really traditional. They have nothing to do with an ancestral rite, and it’s not a celebration. It’s a modern business that makes a select group of people lots of money, said Aguilar García.

The reform seeks to explicitly prohibit any bullfighting spectacle in which horses are exposed to being attacked, rammed and disemboweled, he said.

The petition states these tournaments are savage spectacles that not only advocate violence and damage the social fabric, but also spreads abroad a brutal and wild image of Yucatán.

“We urge the state Congress to take a compassionate stance and prohibit this cruel spectacle,” concludes the petition.

Humane Society International has a presence in more than 50 countries on five continents. In Mexico, where the NGO arrived three years ago, it has focused mainly on issues of legislative lobbying, to try to strengthen animal protection laws, although it also works directly with animals.

It is one of the few international organizations that works to protect all animals: laboratory, farm production, pets and wildlife.

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