Protecting Mexico’s animals – safeguarding people’s futures
There are an estimated 28 million cattle, 466 million poultry, 16.7 million pigs and 20 million goats and sheep in Mexico. Around 13% of the country’s workforce is focused on agriculture and approximately 25 million people out of a population of 100 million live in rural areas. They are mostly subsistence farmers, living below the poverty line, and depend heavily on their animals for survival.
Around 50% live on plots of land known as ejidos which were given to peasant farmers in the early 20th century during a period of land-reform. The effect of the ejidos has been to tie people very much to their lands. Farmers keep a variety of animals – poultry – chickens, ducks, turkeys – beef and dairy cattle, goats, sheep and pigs. Chickens – their meat and eggs – are a major source of nutrition and income for people in these communities. Horses are still used for transportation.
Mexico’s natural disasters – the impact
Natural disasters in Mexico are related to Mexico’s climate and geology. It is subject to earthquakes which injure and kill people and animals and extremes of climate which cause severe floods and drought. The situation is likely to get worse because of climate change. In areas subject to flooding, such as Tabasco state, the land can be under water for seven months of the year; this has killed around 70% of all chickens. In Chihuahua state’s Aldama region, 50% of cattle died during 2012 after two years of drought and three failed farming seasons.
Planning to save animal lives
Mexico’s government, through its National Centre for the Prevention of Disasters (CENAPRED), has worked with us since 2013 to integrate animals into their disaster management policies. The government’s national plan for animals in disaster management will be officially adopted in 2018 and ‘Animals in disasters drill manual’ will be presented in 2018. Central to the plan is ensuring that veterinarians are included in the emergency response units to care for animals and promote better welfare.
The Central American Coordination Centre for Disaster Prevention has included livelihood protection and farm animals in their regional policy on disaster risk management. This will guide policies of Central American governments like Mexico.
Such plans and policies are central to protecting animals on a large scale. They are also a requirement of the Sendai Framework.
Other highly significant disaster risk reduction efforts
Mexico’s first Veterinary Emergency Response Unit (VERU) was developed at Guadalajara University with our support in 2013. VERUS are based in veterinary institutions to train and build capacities of veterinary and disaster management workers to protect animals from disasters. There are now three VERUS in Mexico and more than 30,000 animals affected by disasters owe their lives to the VERU teams. The most recent VERU was established at Puebla University in 2016.
CENAPRED collaborated with us to evaluate animal relief operations after the 2017 earthquake in Mexico City.
Animals in disaster training is incorporated into the CENAPRED’s civil protection technicians’ training course. Civil protection technicians promote community based preparedness and disaster risk reduction capacities for both humans and animals.
We've worked in Mexico for more than 30 years. Our role involves supporting government and civil society organisations to prevent cruelty to animals and on disaster responses and risk reduction activities.
Animals in Mexico’s law and policy
Mexico is governed by a federal system. All 32 states have federal legislation that affects animals incorporated into their legal frameworks. Such legislation protects animals in a variety of circumstances – for example cruelty prevention in abattoirs and during transport. However, as Mexico’s states are autonomous, regulations are different and need to be standardised.
There are laws against animal abuse in all but 13 states, and penalties vary from state to state. For example, some prohibit bull fighting while others allow it. Most have laws or bans on animals in circuses, but the process took many years to spread across the country.
There are laws relating to emergency response which include specific sections on animal care and animal welfare in disasters. In Mexico, civil society has a major role in reviewing legislation, plans and policies relating to the protection and care of animals.
Looking forward – areas for development
The impact of disasters on animals are not yet captured in population census counts; such measurements would help fulfil the requirement of the Sendai Framework to quantify ‘the number of people whose livelihoods were disrupted or destroyed attributed to disasters’ [B.5]. However, there is a database for insurance programmes where animals must be registered and accounted for if they are lost during disasters. The last animal census was conducted in 2007.
Extending disaster risk reduction
Some states include disaster risk reduction for animals in their protocols, but most do not. Continued refinement of action plans and policies, educational curricula and public education/mitigation campaigns is necessary to give more comprehensive protection.
Enforcing the law
Federal law is unevenly adopted at state and municipal level. Most civil defence agencies do not include animals in their protocols.