Guatemala Protects Animal Rights: Landmark Legislation in the Fight Against Cruelty

Guatemala Protects Animal Rights:  Landmark Legislation in the Fight Against Cruelty


At the end of February 2017: legislation passed by a vote in the Guatemalan Congress will now penalise animal cruelty and those that perpetrate it, as well as implementing protections for animals on a variety of fronts.

These include protections for wildlife, for animals used in research and ‘companion’ animals; the legislation also bans animal testing for cosmetics; the use of animals in circuses; dog fighting, “including participation of spectators in this cruel activity”. It also establishes an official government platform to address animal welfare. The law will promote spay and neuter programs and run responsible pet ownership campaigns to reduce the large population of dogs roaming the streets of Guatemala. It will also outlaw culling, especially using painful methods, and make it illegal to abandon or leave animals to roam.

Partners who designed the anti-cruelty legislation included: the University of San Carlos, HSI/Latin America, the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Counsel of Protected Areas, ARCAS. “In addition,, local animal protection organizations like Sillas de Ruedas para tu Mascota GT, Asociación de Amigos de los Animales, Mascotas Terapeutas and Corey Quan offered their input during drafting process.”

Wayne Pacelle, (President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States):

“It’s the latest gain in our worldwide campaign to promote the adoption of anti-cruelty statutes in every nation in the world. We are finding that more nations are taking a broader look at our relationship with animals and are not restricting their work to the important practice of forbidding random acts of malicious cruelty. They are also tackling organized animal fighting, animal testing, and more.”

Guatemala, with an estimated population of around 15.8 million is the most populated state in Central America. For years under the control of the infamous American United Fruit Company (el pulpo / “the octopus“/ 1899-1970), in 1954 a U.S. backed military coup ended a decade of social and economic reforms under the presidency of President Jacobo Árbenz. From 1960 to 1996, Guatemala endured a bloody civil war fought between the US-backed government and leftist rebels. In December 1996 the last of the United Nations backed peace accords were signed ending the thirty six year conflict that left an estimated 140,000–200,000 people dead and missing.

Cynthia Dent, (global field manager for Humane Society International) quoted online said:

The law cracks down on perpetrators of animal cruelty by establishing fines, and setting up the government to deal with cruelty cases…There has been an increase in the number of cruelty cases in Guatemala in recent years, and with this act, we are going to work to reverse this disturbing trend.”

Humane Society International (HSI) is the international division of The Humane Society of the United States. Founded in 1991, HSI has expanded the HSUS’s activities into Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. HSI’s Asian, Australian, Canadian, and European offices carry out field activities and programs:

“Humane Society International (HSI) cooperates with policymakers on international treaties and free trade agreements to conduct briefings and to help draft legislation, regulations, policy statements, and resolutions affecting animals. HSI supports the efforts of governments, industries and NGOs to promote the protection of animals through trade capacity building projects in developing countries and international campaigns to reduce suffering caused by exploitation of marine mammals, factory farming, the fur trade, trophy hunting, and animal fighting and cruelty.” (Wikipedia)

The legislation is a another victory for the Animal Rights Movement which has been growing in recent years as more and more awareness of the suffering inflicted on animals, who we now know have a capacity to suffer and feel pain, is recognised by the perpetrators, ourselves:

“Animal rights is the idea in which some, or all, non-human animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives and that their most basic interests—such as the need to avoid suffering—should be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings. Advocates…maintain that animals should no longer be viewed as property or used as food, clothing, research subjects, entertainment, or beasts of burden.” (Wikipedia)

The movement received new energy in 1975 when Australian philosopher Peter Singer wrote his book ‘Animal Liberation’. Since then, a consistent output of arguments – as well as countless initiatives and groups who actively campaign towards this end worldwide – have been produced to support the ending of cruelty daily inflicted on creatures simply because of their non-human status.

Wayne Pacelle:Make no mistake, our movement for animal protection is a global one, and there’s no region of the world that should not embrace the idea of reducing violence toward the creatures who share our communities. Today, we took one more big step forward for animals, and we send our thanks to lawmakers in Guatemala for their humanity and decency.”

The legislation has been passed. Now we wait both to assess its implementation as well as to see if it may encourage other States to do more to protect their vulnerable neighbours from a seemingly-endless list of practices that inflict torment and suffering on animals, both domesticated and those in what remains of their natural environments.

Sources & References:


‘Animal tests are CRUEL’, by Carlos Latuff

This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Carlos Latuff. This applies worldwide.

HSI Press Release & Further Information:


Singer, Peter, Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for our Treatment of Animals, New York: New York review/Random House, 1975, ISBN 0-394-40096-8; second edition, 1990, ISBN 0-940322-00-5.


Crash course in Animal Rights – Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer

Peter Singer: “Animal Liberation: Past, Present and Future”

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