On Monday morning, LSU announced that its live tiger mascot, Mike VI, had been diagnosed with a rare, incurable cancer that could limit the remainder of his life to anywhere from one month to two years.
Not long after, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent out a press release and called for LSU to end the football program’s tradition of caring for a live mascot — one that dates back all the way to 1936.
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.”
According to the school, Mike VI’s captivity or mascot duties has nothing to do with his ailment. And per the Baton Rouge Advocate, the university has let him “choose” whether he attends home games or not, stating that he’s only been to one game the last two seasons.
“Our primary concern right now is caring for Mike VI and making sure he gets the best possible medical treatment for his condition,” an LSU spokesperson said in a statement regarding PETA’s call to action. “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.”