This morning I read a New York Times story titled Animal Advocates Rattling Sports' Cages, focusing on the use of live animals as sports teams' mascots, and in particular about the use of a tiger as Louisiana State University Mascot.
The University and other mascot-owners (for lack of a better term at the moment) have a variety of arguments, including tradition; sometimes better facilities than zoos; and better veterinary care than many rescue groups. (In the case of LSU, the University has a veterinary school and a 15,000 sq. foot mascot habitat).
Animal advocacy groups also have a variety of arguments: the animals are neither in their natural habitats nor with partners as they would be in those settings; many animals are kept in substandard or unnatural conditions, and cannot behave naturally; animals are subject to unnecessary social situations (crowds/people in stadiums); and animals are used for unnecessary purposes such as gambling and entertainment, or for skins/furs when synthetic materials are now available and adequate substitutes.
Am I missing anything? Probably. And probably more 'extreme' arguments on both sides.
So, that being said, where do I stand on all this?
Well, sometimes animal living conditions, such as LSU, are better than at other places (such as the animal rescue group where they obtained the tiger). And, sometimes, excellently trained veterinarians are available.
But the bottom line is that it's still not the animal's natural habitat. Granted, the tiger (or whatever animal) is already outside of its natural home.... However, the act of obtaining the animal for such purposes perpetuates both the breeding of animals solely for these purposes and the disposal of animals that don't, or no longer, perform as required (think greyhounds, fighting dogs, show animals/beer mascots such as Hamm's). It also perpetuates the capture and killing of animals from the wild for many zoos, for skins (kangaroos for shoes, crocodiles for purses, snakes for boots, rabbits/minks/raccoons/fox for coats, elephants for tusks - ivory), etc.
At the very least, can't we make do without having mascots in unnatural habitats when it's their very behavior in natural life that we admire and choose to represent us?
To read the NY Times story, click on this link. To read more about such issues and others, check out the ASPCA or Humane Society links in the sidebar.