Now that Mike the Tiger is in the headlines, PETA has come forward to ask that LSU move away from live mascots.

In a letter to LSU President F. King Alexander, PETA foundation member Lewis Crary, as well as LSU Animal Advocates Secretary and Events Coordinator Cheyenne Fouts, sent their condolences about Mike the Tiger's cancer diagnosis. They also ask that Mike VI be the last live mascot that LSU has.

Here is the letter written to LSU President Alexander.

May 24, 2016

Fieldon King Alexander


Louisiana State University

Dear Mr. Alexander,

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.

Respectfully yours,

Lewis Crary

Captive Wildlife Specialist

Captive Animal Law Enforcement | PETA Foundation

Cheyenne Fouts

Secretary and Event Coordinator | LSU Animal Advocates

As of now, (2:18PM on May 25, 2016) there has been no response from Alexander. This was LSU's response to PETA from 2007, when they made a similar request when Mike VI first came to LSU.

May 22, 2007

Lisa Wathne
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.

Sean O'Keefe

*Dr. David Baker is Mike the Tiger's veterinarian.

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