PETA has asked CU Boulder to retire the Ralphie program and stop using a live buffalo as the official (and beloved) mascot.

Just a few weeks ago, the University of Colorado Boulder announced the retirement of Ralphie V, the beloved live mascot that has been a signature part of the university's team spirit since 1966.  Five different female bison have played the role since then, and a specially trained team of student handlers care for and train her.

Ralphie V had been on the job for 12 seasons, and CU Boulder announced she would be retiring, opening the door for a new buffalo, Ralphie VI, to take the helm. The search for the new Ralphie is currently underway.

Last week, on November 20, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) posted a letter to CU President Mark Kennedy requesting that the university stop using live animals in its mascot program, citing cruelty to animals. For example, PETA cited that the animals could potentially suffer fear, confusion, and injury at sporting events, and pointed out that many colleges and universities have opted to use humans in animal costumes rather than live mascots.

In the letter written by Marta Holmberg, Senior Director of Youth Programs, PETA said this:

“Even if animals aren't physically harmed, it's hard to imagine that they enjoy being paraded before raucous crowds, entirely out of their element, and treated as if they were toys rather than living, feeling beings with interests, personalities, and needs of their own. Being forced into a stadium full of bright lights, exuberantly screaming fans, and loud noises is stressful—and can be terrifying—for animals who have no idea what's going on or why.”

John Graves, the Ralphie Live Mascot Program manager, says that Ralphie is well-cared for and loved, and that all efforts are taken to make sure the animal is happy and healthy. In an official statement, he said:

“Ralphie running at football games has been a proud CU tradition for more than five decades and we have a track record of doing it safely with appropriate precautions for Ralphie, the Handlers and everyone on the field. That’s the very reason we reacted to her needs and retired her now, after 12 stellar years as our mascot. Ralphie enjoys the spotlight as the queen of our campus and she gets better care than most buffalo. We are now in the process of finding Ralphie VI, and that will require months of training for her and the Handlers to ensure we continue this tradition in a safe and healthy way.”

There are no plans by CU Boulder to end the Ralphie program, and no official letter has been reported to be received by university officials at the time of this writing.

Back in August, Ralphie was named as the number 6 All-Time Greatest Mascot in College Football History by Sports Illustrated.

What do you think? Would you like to see the Ralphie program retired for good? Let us know what you think in the comments below.