New festival thrives 6 years after ban on animal torture

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Cruel animal spectacles are gone, and family fun is in for an annual festival in Yucatán. Photo: Courtesy

A once-notorious village celebration has been cruelty-free for six years.

At Citilcum, a village eight miles west of Izamal, the festival in honor of San Bartolomé has adjusted well to a ban on animal torture. Today the celebration offers activities suitable for the whole family.

That’s after headlines around the world brought attention to the bloody rituals of Kots Kaal Pato, which translates to “strangle the duck.” The tradition consisted of filling piñatas with live iguanas and opossums and beating them to death. Then officials would hang a duck from a wooden scaffold, where participants would try to grab it. Eventually, the bird’s neck would break, and the spectators would be spattered with blood.

Sack races replaced cruel animal spectacles for a notorious annual festival in Yucatán. Photo: Courtesy

The sheer cruelty was breathtaking to outsiders once international media took notice. The festival topped PETA’s 14 Worst ‘Festivals’ Still Taking Place Today and was the focus of an investigative piece in Vice.

Thanks to the sensitivity of the residents of Citilcum and the permanent presence of Humane Society International Mexico (HSI Mexico) in the community, as well as the hard work of local organizations such as AFAD and Movimiento Consciencia, the festival is now an inclusive activity where the families can participate in traditional games and contests.

International media and celebrities such as Eugenio Derbez helped bring pressure on the community to outlaw such animal torture.

“It fills us with pride and joy to see families participating in games and contests. The children really enjoy these activities,” said Felipe Márquez of HSI Mexico.

In Mexico, opposition to animal cruelty is growing. According to what was reported by the polling agency Parametría, 86% of the population disagrees that animal acts are appropriate for entertainment.

In Citilcum, people report that the cruelty-free festivity allows them to enjoy themselves with their children without worrying that they will see scenes in which animals are mistreated.

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