For more than 40 years, the University of Memphis has brought out tigers named TOM ("Tigers of Memphis") to support the school’s sports teams.

By Ally Mauch
September 02, 2020 01:40 PM
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In Defense of Animals

Nearly 10,000 people have sent emails to the University of Memphis, urging the Tennessee school to stop using a live tiger as their mascot.

For more than 40 years, the University of Memphis has brought out tigers named TOM (“Tigers of Memphis”) to support the school’s sports teams. The current tiger, named TOM III, is the third to be used as a mascot.

Animal rights organization In Defense of Animals (IDA) started the movement to end the practice, noting that "big cats don't belong at loud, crowded football games with 60,000 jeering fans." So far, 9,701 people have supported the movement and sent emails to the school.

In Defense of Animals

"Forcing wild animals who are very sensitive to their surroundings into crowds of screaming people is stressful and cruel," Lisa Levinson, Wild Animals Campaigner for IDA said in a release. "Taking pictures with TOM III also sends a harmful message and teaches fans that wild animals belong in cages, rather than in their native habitats, and that they exist for our entertainment,"

"It’s time to leave TOM III at home, instead of carting him around to attend games," she added.

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In addition to TOM III, the University of Memphis has a human mascot named Pouncer, "who can easily interact with its audience while sparing TOM III from enduring the undue stress of attending every game," IDA notes on their website.

"Why cause undue stress and suffering to TOM III when The University of Memphis has a perfectly capable human mascot Pouncer?" IDA President Marilyn Kroplick M.D. said in the release.

Kroplick also directly addressed the University of Memphis' president, M. David Rudd: "President Rudd, this is your golden opportunity to launch an educational and ecologically sound campaign to keep wild animals in the wild. Please announce your decision to end the use of live animal mascots, and bring Pouncer to future games while leaving TOM III at home."