Mascots: Friend or Foe

Riley Sims, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Some people say to grab life by the horn, but for the University of Texas at Austin’s mascot, longhorn Bevo XV, that is not a wise idea. At the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, Bevo tried to attack the University of Georgia’s mascot, a bulldog named UGA, during a photo opportunity. Besides hooking a photographer in the back, nobody was seriously hurt in the incident. The typically gentle longhorn has been a hot topic among many animal rights groups, particularly People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, discussing why schools should not have live animals as mascots. The owners of Bevo XV said they’ve trained Bevo to be comfortable around noises, so the incident was a rare occurrence. School mascots represent a big tradition for many college campuses and the respect that the schools give the mascots isn’t acknowledged by PETA. Schools, like UT Austin, have the right to live mascots because they treat them with great care.

John and Betty Baker are the owners of Bevo XV and also raised Bevo XIII and Bevo XIV. From birth, the Bakers train their bulls to be comfortable around people and noises without harming the bulls or using medication. Also, when Bevo travels to games or events, a group of student handlers called the Silver Spurs hold Bevo’s reins to ensure he doesn’t charge or severely hurt someone on the rare occasions that he isn’t calm. In an ABC interview with the Bakers, Betty Baker said that when Bevo is wearing his halter, he is like a puppy dog, and it is because they train and treat Bevo to be that way. Bevo is not treated like the raging bull critics have painted him to be. He is actually a gentle giant. The longhorn, as well as many other schools’ mascots, are treated humanely. A parent raises his or her child to be comfortable in public situations and not hurt others, so in this light, is Bevo really any different than a child, if not better?

Mascots, like Bevo, also receive proper medical care. When Bevo XIV got sick, the beloved mascot was brought to veterinarians at Texas A&M, where he was diagnosed with Bovine Leukemia. He died a few weeks after being diagnosed during the football season. While Bevo is UT Austin’s mascot, people around the country sent support through letters and cards. He wasn’t just a mascot or an animal to be used as entertainment, he’s an icon for a whole institution and brings together many different people. John Baker didn’t even go to UT Austin, he went Texas A&M, but he didn’t let the school rivalry prevent him from raising the beloved mascot. Bevo XIV was also treated by veterinarians at a rival university instead of an unassociated one. It’s amazing how one animal can bring together people from different backgrounds.

While animal cruelty is unacceptable and needs to be ended, live mascots, particularly Bevo,  don’t quite fit into this category. Bevo’s treated with respect and is taken care of properly. He receives medical care, food and shelter. He’s an icon of the university and represents so much more than just a symbol of entertainment. The incident that occurred with Bevo on the New Year’s Day game was an accident and isn’t the norm. While it’s great that PETA is fighting against animal cruelty, they should focus more on the animals who are suffering and have no voice rather than a school mascot that’s treated with care and is adored by many.