Mexico's Congress Votes To Ban Animal Circuses As U.S. Lags Behind

<p><a class="checked-link" href="">Flickr/felicito rustique, jr.</a></p>
<p><a class="checked-link" href="">Flickr/felicito rustique, jr.</a></p>

In a historic vote on Thursday, one which marks a significant step toward preventing exploitation of animals, Mexico's congress approved a new measure to ban animal circuses nationwide - joining a small, but growing list of nations which have already outlawed the controversial practice.

According to news site Milenio, Mexican lawmakers voted by an overwhelming majority to amend the existing General Wildlife Act to stipulate that the use of specimens of wildlife in circuses shall be prohibited. In their opinion, Congress wrote that "the use of animals in circuses provides no educational value to viewers," saying that the animals exhibited in circuses only perform "because they fear what may happen if they do not."

This nationwide ban comes after six states, and the federal district of Mexico City, had already passed similar legislation on a local level.

Terra News reports that the ban would impact 592 circuses operating around the country. As government officials noted, however, the passage of the ban is not intended to put circuses out of business, but to have them to continue "without affecting other species."

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto hasn't said whether he will sign the bill, but as the Associated Press reports, it has been endorsed by an allied political party. States will then have 180 days to come into compliance with the new ban.

Once signed into law, Mexico will become the 10th country to have passed nationwide bans on animal circuses nationwide. Meanwhile, across the border in the United States, similar measures to stop animals from being exploited for entertainment have been piecemeal by comparison.

This week, for example, officials in Oakland, Calif. approved a ban on bullhooks - a sharp instrument used to intimidate elephants into performing - as a de facto way of preventing circuses from operating within the city. The move is considered a step forward, albeit woefully lacking in urgency; Oakland's ban will only go into effect in 2017.

Steps are being made toward a more comprehensive change in regards to animal circuses, however. Earlier this year, U.S. Congressman Jim Moran introduced the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, a bill which would restrict the use of exotic, non-domestic animals touring with circuses across the country.