Tazi Phillips, Global Animal
In honor of the start of fall classes, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) showed off its school spirit on Tuesday. But instead of celebrating the festivities with their lion mascot, Iggy, many students were shocked to find a real adult male African lion in a cage on display in the Alumni Mall Sunken Garden.
Felix the lion belongs to Eric Weld and Hollywood Animals, a company in Santa Clarita, California that rents animals for movies, television, and special events. They advertise five studio-trained Bengal tigers, 12 lions and lioness, grizzly bears, African elephants, monkeys, five leopards, hyenas and more.
Weld bought Felix from a breeder in Minnesota when he was 3 months old and trained him like a dog to wear clothes, and work with other animals and people. He has worked in feature films such as Evan Almighty, We Bought A Zoo, and in a Chase Bank Commercial that is currently airing.
LMU rented the 13-year old African lion as a special surprise for students attending the First Convo 101 Lions event co-sponsored by MANE Entertainment. The event was organized by the Associated Students of LMU (ASLMU) under the advising of Alexandra Froehlich and approved by the Director of Student Leadership and Development Andrea Niemi.
Why the organization thought that featuring a wild animal on campus was a good idea is still not understood. Compared to zoos and animal entertainment parks, an institution of higher learning has the choice and the intellectual capacity to make the right decision when it comes to respecting wildlife. By paying for the services of a privately owned exotic animal company, LMU is just one more player that perpetuates a disregard for animal welfare and keeping animals in the wild where they belong.
A student from the ASLMU said that because Felix is a movie lion and not from a zoo, “he’s used to this kind of stuff.” However, not only was Felix on display for hundreds of students, but the lion was subjected to mid-day temperatures over 80° F.
Assistant director of communications and media relations at LMU, Peter M. Warren, said that students are responsible for the production of school related events in order to teach them “the process of due diligence.” Little oversight outside of the student-run organization is required. According to Warren, ASLMU obtained a permit from Los Angeles county. The LAPD was alerted as a security precaution, and watch commanders, LMU Public Safety officers and wildlife officials were on site.
But many students were upset by the star of yesterday’s event. LMU student Sophia Pavlos commented on ASLMU’s Facebook page, “As an institution that promotes social justice, I am thoroughly disappointed that LMU would bring a caged wild animal onto campus and subject it to being stared at by hundreds of students. Using a lion as a promotional tool is borderline animal cruelty. We should not only respect the dignity of human beings but also the dignity of all sentient creatures.”
We hope that the general disappointment exhibited by students toward the ASLMU’s decision to have an exotic animal on display will keep the school and others from repeating the event, which weakened their mission statement that urges the encouragement of learning and the promotion of justice.
The ASLMU and school president’s office would not comment on the matter.
Express your disappointment in the school’s actions by contacting Loyola Marymount University:
LMU President’s Office: 310.338.2775