Bittersweet Victory: Condolences and Cheers for University of Memphis' Last Live Tiger Mascot Trucked to Games

Bittersweet Victory: Condolences and Cheers for University of Memphis' Last Live Tiger Mascot Trucked to Games

Today, we claim a bittersweet victory as the University of Memphis announced the sudden death of its tiger mascot, TOM III, and the end of trucking live mascots to games. Although captive tigers can live up to 22 years, TOM III died on September 18, shortly after his 12th birthday, and two days after showing signs of illness. 

Thanks to all the In Defense of Animals supporters who signed our alert, over 10,000 letters were sent urging the University of Memphis to stop exploiting a tiger as a live mascot over ethical, conservation and safety concerns. While we mourn the death of beloved TOM III, we honor the University’s timely decision to stop trucking live mascots to games. 

Big cats don’t belong at loud, crowded football games with 60,000 jeering fans. Live mascots are widely condemned by conservation and animal protection organizations, and selfies with wild animals like the ones offered with TOM III are rightly banned by Instagram.

TOM III was the last live tiger at every University of Memphis game. We hope his untimely death won’t be in vain. The University of Memphis has a golden opportunity to celebrate its tiger legacy by teaching fans that wild animals belong in their native habitats and don’t exist to entertain people. 

We offered sincere condolences to President Rudd in his time of sorrow by sending flowers and a sympathy card, coordinating a student letter-writing campaign, and enlisting local activists to host a memorial on behalf of TOM III.

We applaud the University of Memphis for ending the use of live animal mascots on the football field, but the live animal mascot program is not over yet. Unfortunately, President M. David Rudd has just announced a partnership with the Memphis Zoo where TOM IV will be incarcerated for life and put on public display.

If you have a moment, please contact President M. David Rudd and let him know what you think of the University of Memphis’ new partnership with the Memphis Zoo by calling his office at 901-678-2234 or sending him a respectful tweet

Thanks again for all you do and please consider making a donation to support our work to respect and protect wild animals.

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