Of course they did.
Monday, LSU announced that its live tiger mascot, Mike VI, has been diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer. According to the school, the cancer had nothing to do with the tiger’s captivity or mascot duties.
However, that didn’t stop a certain group from pushing its agenda on this front.
Tuesday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent out a press release in which it served public notice of a letter sent to LSU calling for Mike VI to be the last live mascot utilized by the school. In the letter, PETA stated that “all captive big cats suffer psychologically when subjected to confinement, discomfort, and stress.”
“LSU further exposes them to bright lights and rowdy crowds at football games,” the release added.
“People today realize that orcas don’t belong in tanks, elephants don’t belong in circuses, and tigers don’t belong in cages in stadiums,” said PETA’s Rachel Mathews in a statement included in the release. “PETA is calling on LSU to honor Mike VI and spare future tigers a lifetime of misery by ending the live-mascot program for good.”
Below is the full text of the letter sent to the university:
I’m writing on behalf of PETA, which has more than 5 million members and supporters worldwide, including tens of thousands in Louisiana, to offer our sympathies about Mike the tiger’s cancer diagnosis. I would also like to request that you consider the following information about how tigers suffer in captivity and make Mike VI Louisiana State University’s (LSU) last live mascot.
Captive big cats (who naturally shun human contact) are deprived of everything that is natural and important to them. They live in perpetual states of confinement, discomfort, and stress and, at LSU games, are subjected to a constant barrage of disorienting lights and activity. They often become despondent and develop neurotic and self-destructive types of behavior, including pacing, bar-biting, and self-mutilation. Tigers are particularly unsuited to captivity because they require large areas to roam and opportunities to swim and climb. Even under the best of care, a tiger’s most basic instincts are thwarted in captivity, and continuing to use live animals as mascots perpetuates the cruel notion that sensitive, complex wild animals should be caged and put on display like championship trophies.
People go to LSU football games because they want to see top college athletes playing the best football in the country, not because there’s a caged tiger sitting on the sidelines. I hope you agree that it’s time to recognize society’s growing distaste for animal exhibition and bring a new tradition to LSU of using only willing, costumed human mascots. Orcas don’t belong in tanks, elephants don’t belong in the circus, and tigers do not belong in stadiums. In his sickly condition, Mike VI should not be wheeled out to games this coming season. Generations of tigers have given LSU everything they have—isn’t it time for LSU to give something back? We hope to hear from you soon. Thank you.
In a statement, an LSU spokesperson relayed that “our primary concern right now is caring for Mike VI and making sure he gets the best possible medical treatment for his condition.”
“This is not the time to discuss football season or a new tiger mascot. We are focused on Mike’s health and well-being at this time,” the statement concluded.
This is not LSU’s first brush with PETA as the group made a similar call 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.
Interestingly, the university has “let” 11-year-old Mike VI “choose” which home games he attended the last two seasons. From the Baton Rouge Advocate:
LSU, however, lets Mike decide whether he will attend the football games, and he has received national attention for being less willing to do so than his predecessors. Mike ca decline to go to the games if he doesn’t enter his mobile carrier.
Mike attended one game in 2015 and none in 2014.