And below, LSU's Response - Probably more diplomatic than I would’ve been…..(Liberalism run amuck)
PETA: No live mascot for LSU
Posted by By James Varney, staff writer May 21, 2007 9:05PM
In a letter to be faxed to LSU Chancellor Sean O'Keefe today, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will request the university not pursue a live replacement for Mike V, a royal Bengal tiger and school mascot that died Friday.
The move was anticipated by several LSU officials, and the letter does not appear to have much chance of swaying opinion at the school, which appears to stand solidly in favor of replacing Mike with a tiger cub.
Dr. David Baker of the LSU Veterinary School, who cared for Mike and was visibly shaken last week by the tiger's death at 17 from kidney failure, declined to go beyond the curt summary he offered then.
"The LSU mascot is part of the LSU community, part of the LSU family; a tradition for 71 years," Baker said. "And we intend to obtain another tiger."
PETA's letter opened by expressing sympathy over Mike's death, which has been acutely felt by many LSU fans. The group urged, however, that the search for Mike VI be curtailed before it gathers momentum.
"Big cats in captivity are denied everything that is natural and important to them, such as the opportunity to run, climb, hunt, establish their territory, and choose their mates," wrote Lisa Wathne, a specialist for PETA on captive exotic animals.
In a phone interview Monday, Wathne said the school might be misconstruing the outpouring of comments that have accompanied Mike V's death. Given that live mascots are increasingly uncommon in American sports, the same crowd that shouts with glee when Mike makes his trip around Tiger Stadium before kickoff would probably support the school were it to forgo a living replacement, she said.
"We believe that more and more people are uncomfortable seeing them in this situation," Wathne said. "People are evolving on this."
LSU officials, while saying they could not comment on Wathne's letter until they had a chance to digest it, offered some general responses to the complaints of animal rights activists who, as a general rule, oppose any sort of captivity for animals, not just the exotic and endangered kind such as Mike.
Many wildlife experts put the Bengal tiger population in the wild at 500 or fewer, a number that could mean the species has moved below the sustainability bar. Thus, it is better that tigers remain in luxurious habitats like Mike's than it is they vanish from the earth, school officials said. Last year, Mike moved into a $3 million home, complete with a bathing pool and waterfall, that offered 15,000 square feet of living space.
What's more, while at LSU, Mike is not pursued by poachers who sought his fur and organs, nor does he have to prowl for a new home among ever dwindling patches of jungle. His appetite and medical needs are handled by a dedicated and loving faculty, the school said.
"The tigers we will have here will have nothing but top-notch care and facilities," LSU spokeswoman Kristine Calongne said.
Those arguments are not persuasive to PETA, although the group concedes the university's veterinary acumen. The organization, citing its own figures, said about 15,000 tigers, or 300 times the wild population, are held in private captivity in the United States.
In addition, the space a tiger needs should be measured in acres, not feet, PETA holds. Wathne said it is unconscionable that such grand animals are kept in "shabby backyard pens and basements."
Such terms are more than propaganda, according to the letter to O'Keefe, especially because, "if LSU purchases a tiger cub, a newborn tiger will be forcibly removed from his or her mother within days of birth," according to Wathne.
"In October 2003, the journal Nature reported Oxford University researchers' finding that large, roving predators -- such as tigers -- show stereotypical symptoms of stress when they are kept in captivity because they are unable to satisfy their instinct to roam," she wrote.
While she acknowledged LSU could buy a tiger legally and thus would not be scouring unsavory wildlife black markets for a new Mike, the overall tone of the transaction is less laudatory in her opinion.
"LSU would be promoting and contributing to the trade in exotic animal in this country," she said.
General Information, Media Advisory
LSU Response to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
05/22/2007 02:44 PM
Note: The following is Chancellor Sean O'Keefe's response to a letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) dated May 22, 2007 regarding LSU's plans to obtain a tiger.
May 22, 2007
Captive Exotic Animal Specialist
501 Front St.
Norfolk, VA 23510
Dear Ms. Wathne:
Thank you for your May 22, 2007, letter concerning LSU’s mascot, Mike the Tiger.
Mike is a treasured member of the LSU family. There are 71 years of history behind Mike, and he represents the heart of our University.
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.
Our mascots live in an excellent tiger habitat, far better than most found in zoos. Solitary animals by nature, tigers do not congregate in the wild, and due to the alarming state of their species in the wild – tigers are already critically endangered and their numbers continue to shrink – efforts to maintain the integrity of the species will need to be conducted in captivity. The current enclosure is large enough for Mike to express normal species-specific behaviors, including roaming his enclosure. Captive tigers do not have to fight and risk injury to establish and defend their territories, secure mates, or hunt prey. They are also safe from poachers and are not subject to common and debilitating viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections.
Further, LSU is committed to the safe, responsible, and ethical care and handling of its tigers. Mike poses no danger to students, spectators at sporting events, visitors to his habitat, or the medical personnel who care for him. Contact is limited by strict order of the mascot’s trainer and veterinarian, as well as by policies established and enforced by the United States Department of Agriculture. During games, Mike is placed in a specially designed trailer. No persons are allowed to contact the tiger without a barrier between them and the tiger.
LSU’s tigers are treated with the love we give our mascots and all the respect we give wild animals. They are in no way inhumanely or cruelly treated, and their care and comfort are of the utmost importance to all members of the LSU community.
LSU has a federal permit to exhibit a tiger and abides by all animal welfare laws, regulations, and policies. The facility and care provided to LSU's Mike the Tiger exceed federal standards. Finally, it should be noted that LSU, in line with the University’s educational function, is in the process of developing a state-of-the-art tiger education center to educate the public about global conservation issues. The presence of a live tiger will augment the educational impact of the center. Thus, the presence of Mike VI on campus will move the mascot program into a greater educational role than was possible with previous tigers.
The School of Veterinary Medicine has already received dozens of offers for a new cub. We will not take a tiger cub from its mother; we will obtain a cub that has been weaned. And, LSU absolutely will not purchase a tiger from a private breeder, as we do not want to encourage irresponsible breeding of tigers. Dr. David Baker* will assess all offers and will also seek candidates through a list of established contacts, primarily zoos.
Again, thank you for writing. I hope that I have addressed some of your concerns.
*Dr. David Baker is Mike the Tiger's veterinarian.
LSU Media Relations
Mike the Tiger: Preserving the Roar!