Animal Rights Protest Scuttles Baylor Bear
October 13, 2003
The Associated Press
WACO, Texas - Complaints from an animal rights group have prompted Baylor University to change its decades-old practice of bringing its mascot — a black bear — to home football games.
Veterinarians said crowd noise could agitate the bear, and the decision follows a protest that began last year by members of Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK.
The school's "bear pit" actually houses two female North American black bears. The group claimed the bears were driven into a state of psychosis because they were kept in a mostly concrete environment.
"I think it took someone from the outside looking in and saying, 'Wait a minute,'" said Colleen Gardner said, whose son visited the campus in July 2002 and filmed hours of footage of the bears.
Baylor officials denied the animals were being harmed, citing satisfactory inspections by the Agriculture Department.
Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley said the school planned to start an $800,000 fund-raising drive to upgrade the bear pit, which was built in 1976.
It's not the first time the school changed its bear program, which is more than 70 years old. In recent years, trainers stopped feeding the animals Dr. Pepper, which was created in Waco in 1885 and is the official Baylor soft drink.