I am the founder of Big Cat Rescue and have spent more than twenty years caring for 16 species of exotic cats. I have learned a lot by observing them and my philosophy has changed as a result. Through watching more than 100 such cats over the years, I have had to take a good hard look at my own beliefs about what constituted animal cruelty. If you know something is wrong and choose to look the other way, then you are culpable for damage. I changed and your school can too.
The University of Memphis is all about educating people and you do that so that they will be better citizens and better stewards. The choice to NOT continue a practice of keeping a big cat as a mascot is an unprecedented opportunity to educate your students and the world. Science is proving that we have far more in common with animals than we ever knew before. If none of your staff or students wants to give up the next 20 years of their lives to live in Tom's cage, and perform Tom's past role, then there is even less reason to believe that any wild animal wants to do so.
Some schools, like LSU, try to excuse their bad behavior by saying they are rescuing a cat, but when you enable a breeder to offload cats they can't use, so they can go out and breed more, or "rescue" more, you are still adding to the problem. Even if you were to legitimately rescue a tiger from a situation that would not continue to exploit animals, using them in the manner you have in the past only perpetuates the notion that tigers are props.
Using a big cat that way continues the attitudes that lead to their demise and abuse. Our website has over 15,000 pages of information about the plight of big cats in the wild and in captivity, but these links are worth researching before you make your decision about what UoM will use as a mascot.
Please take this opportunity to change the direction of University of Memphis to one that is more compassionate and responsible.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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