Early in the first quarter of what would turn into an Auburn win over Mississippi State, running back Boobee Whitlow scored on a 30-yard run for the first touchdown of the SEC West matchup. As Whitlow crossed the goal line, though, he was pushed by a Bulldogs defender, a push that sent him flying into MSU’s live mascot, Jak.
Monday, MSU offered an update on the dog, stating that “Jak is okay” and “will spend the football bye week making a full recovery from bruising to his chin and right hind leg.” The mascot is expected to be on the sidelines when MSU takes on Tennessee Oct. 12 in Knoxville.
If People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals PETA has its way, however, Jak — or any other university with a live mascot for that matter — won’t be on the sidelines ever again as the organization sent a letter to MSU “urging [it] to retire Jak and pledge not to use live animals in the future.”
“It was sheer luck that this close call didn’t leave Jak severely injured or even dead, and it’s never been fair game to subject a dog to the bright lights, screaming fans, and booming noise of a football stadium,” PETA senior director Marta Holmberg said in a statement. “PETA is urging MSU to be a dog’s best friend and end its live-mascot program—and we’ll gladly help find Jak a loving adoptive home where he can live out the rest of his days in peace.”
In its statement, we’re reminded that “PETA — whose motto reads, in part, that ‘animals are not ours to use for entertainment’ — opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview.”
For those interested in the entire letter sent to MSU president Dr. Mark Keenum, read on:
I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the world’s largest animal rights organization, with more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide. Concerned citizens are contacting us about an incident in which a football player apparently collided with Jak, Mississippi State’s live bulldog mascot, during the September 28 game against Auburn University.
In light of this close call—which could easily have left Jak severely injured or even dead—as well as the cruelty inherent in using living beings as “mascots,” I urge you to retire Jak and pledge not to use live animals in the future.
Using vulnerable animals as mascots is a recipe for disaster. For example, at this year’s Sugar Bowl, Bevo, the longhorn steer used by the University of Texas, apparently broke out of an enclosure and charged the University of Georgia’s bulldog mascot, Uga, nearly trampling him.
Even if animals survive their stints as mascots without losing a limb or their life, it’s hard to imagine that they enjoy appearing before raucous crowds. Being forced into a stadium full of bright lights, screaming fans, and loud noises can be stressful—and even terrifying—for sensitive animals like dogs, who would much rather be at home with loving guardians.
Bulldogs like Jak are also predisposed to many congenital ailments as a result of inbreeding and being bred for distorted physical features, including severe breathing difficulties, hip dysplasia, and heart disorders. Poor ventilation and hot or humid weather can be deadly for bulldogs, and traveling is especially taxing on them. What’s more, breeding dogs to use as mascots—or for any reason—is unconscionable, given our country’s staggering canine overpopulation crisis.
Public opinion has turned against using animals for “entertainment,” and most universities and professional sports teams have switched to using costumed human mascots instead of real animals. Unlike animals, human mascots can lead cheers, interact with the crowd, and pump up the team—all willingly.
May we please have your assurance that you will bring Mississippi State into the 21st century by giving Jak the retirement he deserves and pledging not to use real animals as mascots? Thank you for your attention to this important issue.