BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A new Care2 petition is calling on LSU to release Mike VII to a sanctuary and cease to have a live tiger mascot in the future.
As of Thursday night, the petition had more than 65,000 signatures, easily surpassing the initial goal of 40,000. Animal rights activists started the petition after LSU unveiled Mike VII on the first day of class for the fall 2017 semester. More than half of the signatures came this week.
“Mike is beloved,” Care2 Senior Director of Engagement Rebecca Gerber said Thursday. “We’re not making any claims about how this Mike has been treated. We want people to think about whether animals should be here for our amusement and should be used as mascots for us, or if we should have a different relationship with animals.”
Gerber said treating Mike as a spectacle contributes to a culture she says can lead to poaching and animal trafficking.
“There’s only a couple of schools in the country that still have live mascots and LSU is one of the last holdouts,” she said. “The school could be a real leader in animal welfare by deciding that they are going to retire the live mascot.”
“By providing a home for a tiger that needs one, LSU hopes to raise awareness about the problem of irresponsible breeding and the plight of tigers kept illegally or inappropriately in captivity in the U.S.,” LSU officials wrote in a statement. “The university does not support the for-profit breeding of tigers.”
Mike VII, LSU’s current mascot, was adopted from Wild at Heart Wildlife Center, formerly called Animal Adventures, in Okeechobee, Florida. Back in August of 2017, The Advocate released a report detailing “unsafe and unsanitary conditions and records-keeping violations” at the facility.
Care2 created a previous petition back in 2016 when Mike VI died, calling for the school to stop using live animals as mascots. That petition had more than 142,000 signatures.
“By perpetuating the live mascot, they are participating in exotic animal trade,” said Debra Leahy, an expert in captive wildlife protection with the Humane Society of the United States.