Shortly after LSU announced back in May that Mike VII, LSU’s live mascot, had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called for the university to end the tradition. Nearly five months later, PETA is using the tiger’s passing to further push the agenda.
Tuesday, LSU announced that Mike had been euthanized, just a week or so after the university revealed that the big cat would ultimately have to be put down because of the cancer he had been battling. Last night, PETA renewed its calls for the school to halt the live-mascot tradition and make Mike VI the final one at the school.
“This sad day could mark a kind new beginning for LSU, where sensitive, intelligent tigers have been reduced to game-day props for decades,” a statement from the organization began. “PETA is calling on the university to honor Mike VI’s legacy by making him the last live mascot to be locked up in captivity and paraded around an unruly stadium. The last thing LSU should do is condemn yet another tiger to a lifetime of exploitation.”
As it stands now, the university is planning to continue on with a live mascot as a search is currently underway for the 11-year-old Mike’s replacement.
These last few months weren’t LSU’s first brush with PETA as the group made a similar call to abandon live mascots back in 2007. That prompted the university’s then-chancellor, Sean O’Keefe, to release a statement that not only defended the tradition but compared the lifespan of a tiger in the wild to that of one in captivity.
LSU stands behind its treatment of its tigers. Their habitat and lifestyle are constantly monitored to ensure their well-being, and they receive state-of-the-art veterinary medical care from the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, which can improve and extend the life of a big cat. This is evidenced by the fact that Mike V lived to be 17 years of age. Two of LSU’s tiger mascots, Mike I and Mike III, lived 19 years, and Mike IV lived 20 years 9 months and 18 days. The average lifespan for a tiger in the wild is about 8-10 years. A tiger in captivity, like Mike V, can live 14-18 years.
A live tiger mascot was first used at LSU in 1936. The last season prior to this one in which a tiger didn’t make at least one in-season appearance at a football game was 1935.
Mike 1 was the Tigers’ longest-tenured mascot at 20 seasons. Outside of Mike II (1956-58) and Mike VI (2007-16), all of the other mascots served at least 14 years.