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Citizens protest against animal abuse in Mexico City’s Sonora Market

The protest led to the capture of some animal abusers and the rescue of dogs, chickens, and goats

Citizens protest against animal abuse in Mexico City’s Sonora Market
This is the place where sorcerers and adepts of Yoruba religions buy animals for ritual sacrifices - Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 24/11/2018 19:56 EL UNIVERSAL in English/David Morales Mexico City Prensa Animal, Diana Lastiri/EL UNIVERSAL Actualizada 19:56

A crowd of vendors and shoppers fill the halls of the Sonora Market, also called the Witchcraft Market, in Mexico City. Visitors are not allowed to take pictures and outsiders are met with suspicious looks and secretiveness.

Medicinal herbs such as cat’s claw, strings of garlic and exotic objects for different uses can be found in the market stalls. This is the place where sorcerers and adepts of Yoruba religions go to buy everything they need for their rituals, including chickens, mice, and crocodile skin.

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The entrance of the Sonora Market - Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL

Deep in the market, however, there is an entire section for the sale of animals of all sorts. One can buy a chicken for only MXN$150 pesos, dogs for less than MXN$1,000, as well as black cats, goats, owls, crocodiles, and even tlacuaches. Taking a closer look, one cannot help but wonder how the vendors even got their hands on some of their items. Crows, crabs, parrots, lizards, and serpents fill numerous cages stacked on top of each other.

When we asked a vendor how she had obtained her crows, she simply replied: “I got them from someone.” Suddenly, vendors stared at us in suspicion and recoiled as we passed.

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An owl is rescued by officials from the General Attorney's Office - Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL

The Sonora Market has given rise to controversy among environmentalist and civil organizations for months. Last April, the Citizen Front for the Protection of Animal Rights filed a complaint against the illegal sale and abuse of animals within their premises, after which the Ministry of Public Security (SSP) in Mexico City challenged an order signed by a federal judge for the protection of vendors against police operations in the Sonora Market with the intention of rescuing the animals.

The association for the protection of animal rights, led by José Luis Carranza Gutiérrez, claimed that the stall owners were in direct violation of all five fundamental freedoms for animal welfare: The freedom from hunger or thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury, or disease, freedom to express normal behavior, and freedom from fear and distress.

With this in mind, the association requested for the intervention of the SSP to arrest those responsible for animal trafficking and abuse.

Earlier this week, citizens of Mexico City created a Facebook event to protest on November 24 against animal abuse at the Sonora Market, claiming that the owners of the market had no permission from the Environmental Attorney of Mexico City, the Agency for Animal Protection, nor the Ministry of Public Security for selling animals “to be sacrificed in stupid rituals.” They heavily criticized animal sacrifices by Santería and Palo practitioners, stressing that religious freedom had its limits.

The activists claimed that the Ministry of Public Security of Mexico City had insofar turned a blind eye to these developments. Which is why they decided to file a complaint directly so that the animal abusers were caught in flagrante delicto. Their protest allegedly led to the capture of several animal abusers and traffickers, as well as the rescue of dogs, chickens, and goats. Animal activists uploaded pictures of the event, as well as live footage of the protest.

A Facebook user uploaded a photo of a black goat being rescued: “These heroes rescued animals in the Sonora Market, one of them was going to be sacrificed for witchcraft.”

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