PETA renews call for universities to end use of live animal mascots following Sugar Bowl incident

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Texas mascot Bevo. Photo via CBS Sports

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is renewing its call for universities to stop using live animals as mascots after the Texas football program’s large longhorn steer, Bevo, nearly trampled Georgia’s signature bulldog, Uga, and members of the media before the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.

PETA urged the Universities of Texas and Georgia to put their live animal mascots out to pasture, saying it’s “indefensible to subject animals to the stress” of screaming fans in a packed stadium.

“It’s no surprise that a skittish steer would react to a perceived threat by charging,” PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange said Thursday in a statement. “PETA is calling on the University of Texas and the University of Georgia to learn from this dangerous incident, retire their live-animal mascots, and stick to the talented costumed mascots who can lead cheers, react to the crowd, and pump up the team.”

Uga, an English bulldog wearing a bright red Georgia sweater, was quickly pulled out of harm’s way, but Bevo’s head and horns appeared to make contact with several people, including a couple of photographers, who scampered out of the way or were knocked down. Bevo was quickly restrained and there were no reported injuries.

The incident, about an hour before kickoff, was caught on video and quickly became a sensation on social media.

While it appeared to many that Bevo was advancing aggressively toward Uga, the steer’s chief handler disputed that version of events. Silver Spur alumni association executive director Ricky Brennes, who is in charge of handling the 1,700-pound steer, said Bevo was simply agitated because he wanted to walk and was being restrained.

Neel Parekh, a PETA official and University of Texas alumnus, voiced his concerns about Bevo’s well-being in an open letter to the school’s president.

“Bevo deserves to spend his days grazing with his herdmates, not being shuffled from game to game like a piece of sporting equipment. Being forced into a stadium full of bright lights, screaming fans, and frightening noises is stressful—even terrifying—for sensitive, intelligent animals like longhorns, and this stress could cause Bevo to react in ways that might result in injury to himself or others, as we saw this week,” he wrote.

Similarly, Emily R. Trunnell, a PETA official and University of Georgia alum, wrote to her school about Uga.

“Dogs deserve better than to be shuffled from game to game as if they were sporting equipment,” she said in a letter.

CBS News reached out to both universities to see if they would comment on the letters, but they did not immediately respond.

For years, PETA has been calling on universities to cease the use of live animals as mascots, citing professional teams that have abandoned the practice. Currently, Louisiana State University, Baylor University, University of North Alabama and University of Memphis are among the schools that still use live animals as mascots, according to PETA.

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