PETA Isn’t Pleased That Boston College Is Using a Live Eagle As Their Mascot
Boston College’s choice to bring back a live bald eagle as their mascot during home football games has ruffled the feathers of PETA, the national animal rights organization known for their eccentric public protests.
Lindsay Rajt, PETA’s associate director of campaigns, told Boston that no animal should be forced to represent a school at live sporting events where thousands of people are screaming and cheering, and loud music and the blare of speakers are used. “No animal should be subjected to the strange environment, and birds can become disoriented in situations like that and it can be very scary for them,” she said. “PETA is reaching out to the school as we do with all colleges and professional sports teams who consider using live animals as their mascots.”
Members of PETA adamantly promote the use of costumed mascots, according to Rajt, because they are more “versatile,” and can be used for more than just brief appearances at sporting events. “There are a number of issues with the live mascots … [including] animals suffering from injuries.”
On August 28, officials from Boston College announced that, for the first time in nearly half-a-century, they would welcome back a live bald eagle as the school’s official team representative, and that the bird would make appearances at all home football games during the 2013 season. The Newton-based Catholic school renewed its partnership with Zoo New England and teamed up with the World Bird Sanctuary to bring back the tradition. “It is time that we bring back some of our old traditions and create new ones,” Director of Athletics Brad Bates said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have a majestic and imposing mascot and showcasing an eagle in ways that are inspiring and educational will provide an exceptional opportunity for our fans while connecting with our history.”
John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO, said that the partnership with BC will teach people about the species and raise awareness about the birds being on “the brink of extinction.”
The school said the nine-year-old bald eagle would be available for photos and appearances before and after the games, and would be part of “meet-and-greet” sessions.
But Rajt said this is a prime example of where things could go wrong, and how wild animals could become frightened in such circumstances. “Every situation is different, and we can’t tell the future, but there was an issue with [California’s minor league hockey team] the Bakersfield Condors, when they brought [a condor] out during the National Anthem, and she flew around the ice trying to figure out a way out, flapping around,” she said, adding that the trainers were put in harm’s way, and slipped on the ice trying to catch the giant bird. “It was just a mess, and a stressful and dangerous situation for everyone involved.”
Boston reached out to a spokesperson from Boston College to find out how some of these issues are being addressed. An email and phone call to the school were not immediately returned.
PETA, no stranger to headline-grabbing protests—which have included appearances in Boston where attendees dressed as giant dead geese—said they don’t have immediate plans to show up at BC to protest the use of the bird at home games, but they are not taking the option off of the table. “We are reaching out to the school [first],” said Rajt. “We want to see what the response is there.”
BC last had a live eagle mascot named “Margo” from 1961 to 1966, after three students launched “Project Mascot,” an effort to secure a live eagle for the school. But in August 1966, Margo was struck by aviary virus and died in the Franklin Park Zoo. After that, stricter regulations against capturing endangered species and a greater sensitivity about a captured animal’s welfare prevented the school from again using a live mascot, according to the school’s website.
They switched to a costumed mascot up until last season, which acted as a “supplementary cheerleader.”